[This article was first published in December 2021]
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a steep rise in the number of people suffering from depression and other mental health issues.
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant in Europe, France and in the UK has brought with it more restrictions to help curb the rise in cases. Christmas trips and gatherings are being cancelled, with the festive season feeling increasingly less celebratory by the minute.
English speaking telephone helplines and professionals are available in France. The important thing is to reach out if you or someone you know is suffering from psychological distress.
1. SOS Helpline
Anyone feeling low and wanting to talk through their problems with a sympathetic and non-judgmental listener can call SOS help on 01 46 21 46 46 (15:00-23:00) or visit soshelpline.org
The charity is based in Paris but takes calls from anywhere in France. It operates along the lines of the Samaritans where trained volunteers are there to listen to calls which are kept anonymous.
They are always looking for volunteers and accept donations by PayPal.
2. Cancer Support France
Cancer Support France has been offering its support on a wider basis since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. Its trained Active Listeners will give emotional support both by phone and by email to any English-speaking person who is elderly, isolated, vulnerable or who has health problems.
They have set up a dedicated forum where you can discuss issues related to Covid-19, and also stay up to date with relevant announcements.
CSF is a network of independent associations throughout France and its regular service is to provide support for English speaking people of any nationality who have been touched by cancer.
You can contact the CSF National Helpline on 0800 240 200 or by email at email@example.com. They will normally respond within 24 hours.
3. Alcoholics Anonymous
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction or turning to alcohol as a way to cope, there are also several English-speaking Alcoholics Anonymous groups in France.
You can find details of all English language speaking groups throughout Europe, including France, at www.alcoholics-anonymous.eu with upcoming meetings listed here. You can email or get in touch with them via their Help Response form.
Since the first lockdown many meetings have been, and some continue to be, conducted online via Zoom.
4. Counselling in France
Website www.counsellinginfrance.com is a directory where you can find an English speaking counsellor or other therapist in France. You can search for a therapist in your local area, or find therapists who provide treatment online.
It also has details of local support and social support groups across the country, including those offering help with addiction, marital problems, bereavement support and money issues.
The impact of Covid on mental health in France
Last winter, a study by the national health agency, Santé publique France, found that the percentage of people in France suffering from depression increased from 15.5% in October of 2020 to 22.6% on November 25, 2020.
In September, President Macron announced that France would increase reimbursements for consultations with psychologists to make mental health care cheaper in France.