Survey earlier this month found that 10% of respondents had suicidal thoughts over the course of the year

Psychology appointments in France will be funded by the government starting next year, the president announced Tuesday, amid growing awareness and concern about the importance of mental health, the Associated Press reports.

State health care systems in Britain, Germany and some other countries already fund therapy sessions. French health professionals say a national effort to improve access is long overdue, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has caused and aggravated psychological distress.

Acknowledging both the psychological impact of government virus restrictions and past government failures to make mental health a priority, French President Emmanuel Macron announced several measures during a conference with professionals who work in the area.

As the virus raced across France, “we didn’t want to see the importance of mental health, and we got hit in the face with the fact that health is all-encompassing,” Macron said. “The consequences of the pandemic are just as tangible in mental health” as in physical health.

He described a spike in the number of children seeking psychological treatment and in attempted suicides, notably among teenagers. About 20% of French people suffer from depression, he said.

The French government announced free therapy sessions for children and young people earlier this year, and on Tuesday pledged to extend that to everyone. Psychiatric treatment is already largely reimbursed by the state.

A French government survey earlier this month found that 10% of respondents had suicidal thoughts over the course of the year, double the figure found in pre-pandemic surveys.

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