Tag Archives: U.S.

Depressing Depression in France

As I watched yet another person walk by me in Paris muttering to himself tonight, I was reminded of a conversation I had not long ago with a psychologist friend about the French healthcare system. Considering it has one of the most inclusive and admirable ones in the developed world, I was shocked to find out that the social security – the near-full coverage that is given to all who live in France – does not cover mental health.

A visit with a psychologist in Paris costs around 80 euros for a one-hour session. That equals out to 80 euros once a week, or 320 euros per month – about half a month’s rent. If you’re lucky enough to warrant medication and thus, a psychiatrist (read: “doctor”), you can get your bill mostly covered by the social security. But what about all the others with anxiety, mild depression, or other illnesses that can be treated – oftentimes better – without medication?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or talk therapy, has been proven effective alongside medication but also all on its own. Talking out problems, finding constructive ways to deal with difficult situations, reversing negative thinking, and learning techniques to calm the body and mind is what CBT is all about. It’s such a shame that the French government would rather pay for someone to pop a pill than to correct what is really at the root of his or her problems.

Young girl crying

And the government should take note. According to the NOP World Health’s Western European Depression and Anxiety Physician Study from 2004, France has the highest proportion of depressed people in Western Europe. It says:

Many sufferers are undiagnosed, however — and even those who are diagnosed are often not treated with prescription medications. This continues to be true, in spite of the fact that many established depression and anxiety therapies are available in Europe — several in generic form or recently re-launched with new formulations.”

Of course this isn’t just a French problem. Mental health is still a hush-hush issue in the most modern countries on the planet. In Japan, where suicide rates are among the highest in the world, killing oneself is seen as an act of nobility linked back to the days of the Samurai. Japanese have even been known to join internet suicide clubs to meet and talk about their planned deaths.

One nation attempting to fade the stigma is the U.S., which has paved the way with bestselling self-help books and pop-psychology. Seeing a therapist in America is trendy and a normal topic of conversation among friends. Billboards for depression and suicide line the highways, and Dr. Phil is a regular on afternoon TV. While the Obama administration struggles to find a solution to the healthcare crisis in the U.S., mental healthcare would most likely be included in a medical insurance plan as it is now under private insurance, with perhaps a slightly higher deductible.

Back in France, the general health insurance outlook is much better. Under the national social security, patients are covered up to about 60%, which is often supplemented by a 30-euro per month mutuelle plan, bringing that coverage to 100%. One would think then, logically, that mental health would be covered by some small percentage, if not the whole 60%.

Sadly, this is not the case. My psychologist friend says that they are working on it. But I wonder, what does that mean? And what needs to happen for the social stigma of mental health to once and for all, finally wear off so that people can get the help they deserve?

Whether it’s the depressing news about mental health in France or the depression itself, I have a feeling I know why the French never smile.

European Union: membership denied

As I read about the Eastern Partnership, the summit meeting in Prague last Thursday that attempted to lure six former Soviet republics towards the European Union and away from Russia’s influence, I got to thinking about this whole immigration/E.U. thing.

Politicians in every E.U. country seem to be bewildered by the influx in immigration, the rampant crossing of European country borders, the migration of people towards better jobs in wealthier European nations than their own. What did they expect? If you create a club for people, you can’t exclude those same people months later when they actually start wanting to get more involved than simply paying the joiner’s fee.

The European Union was created in 1993 with the notion that it would create a stronger bond between nations, become a world economic and political power, and allow freedom of movement between member countries. Now in its 16th year, it seems that the original creators of the group forgot to outline a few things.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy aboard Mistral warship...

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Like work, for example. How do you allow people to cross borders freely but then put restrictions on employment? Do you pull a “Sarkozy” and try to send everyone home? Is this whole E.U. idea just globalization at its worst?

And the biggest question, where does it stop? E.U. member countries are having an increasingly tough time deciphering who is European and who isn’t. The Czech Republic? Yup, they’re mostly white and mostly Christian. How about Poland? Why of course – they’re also mostly white and mostly Christian. And Turkey? Oops, sorry. They’re not so white and not at all Christian. But they touch all the right country borders so technically…

I have a French friend who is diametrically opposed to the European Union. He wants his precious franc back and not to worry about yet another European immigrant taking a job from him. He is proudly nationalistic and protectionist.

But is that such a bad thing? Yes, the European Union has succeeded in becoming a world power, giving the U.S. and China a serious run for their money. And tourists everywhere are having a hay-day, no longer worrying about changing money at every border or dealing with exchange rates. But lately, it seems that there are some serious kinks in the plan. Not to mention the joiner’s fee, which is a small sum in comparison to the price people pay with their souls once they officially become members.

Pandemic! Outbreak! Hysteria! Only in America.

As the hours tick by, I watch my email inbox fill up with sensationalist junk from the many virtual newspaper alerts to which I have subscribed.

First is the Star Tribune: “Minnesota reports first case of probable swine flu‏.” Then, hours later, “World Health Organization raises flu alert level to phase 5.”

Then the New York Times chimes in: “World Health Organization Warns Nations to Prepare for Flu Pandemic.” A pandemic? Really? For once, I bet the Times was really hoping that they could end a title with little red exclamation points.

And finally, Yahoo hits a homer with: “World govts race to contain swine flu outbreak.” They open the article with the following paragraph just to make sure everyone’s paying attention: “The world’s governments raced to avoid both a pandemic and global hysteria Sunday as more possible swine flu cases surfaced from Canada to New Zealand and the United States declared a public health emergency. “It’s not a time to panic,” the White House said.” PANIC? Who said anything about panicking?!!!!!!

Misconceptions Surrounding Eating Pork And The Swine...

Guilty until proven innocent!

Geez! These American papers could tone it down a little, don’t you think? France is currently making a mockery of the U.S. for getting into a tizzy over this pig flu and I have to agree with the Froggies on this one. I realize the gravity of the situation, but does it help to put the fear of God into all of us? I don’t think so. Especially when avoiding transmission of the disease is so darn intangible: “wash hands, avoid public spaces, stay home if you can.” Yes. This all makes sense for my daily life. And how about yours?

The worst part is, there is a large majority of people who still think the outbreak is caused by eating pork products. Perhaps the U.S. media could try focusing a bit more on clarifying this point instead of turning us all into a bunch of shut-ins. But am I really surprised? America has always operated by using fear-mongering.

Ah, I’m getting myself all worked up. And am strangely craving a BLT…