7.5 Mental health
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The Covid-19 pandemic in 2019 has largely affected the mental health of young people. In order to remedy its negative effects, the public health authorities in particular have implemented various measures for young people,
Various studies carried out by national and territorial public authorities demonstrate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the mental health of individuals and young people. The consequences on the mental health of adolescents and children have evolved through the successive phases of containment and decontainment.
According to the Santé publique France agency (national public health operator) "the health crisis acted as a catalyst for mental health problems in France". Indeed, the epidemic was accompanied by a rise in "anxiety about the infection and the implementation of restrictive measures on the social level".
Data from the Agence Santé Publique France showed, since the beginning of 2021, an increase in emergency room visits for suicidal gestures, suicidal ideas and mood disorders among children aged 11-17 (middle school and high school levels) and to a lesser extent among 18-24 year olds. Children aged 11-14 (middle school level) were the most affected.
At the end of 2021 and the beginning of January 2022, visits for mood disorders tended to return to levels comparable to those of previous years, while visits for suicidal ideation and gestures remained at much higher levels.
Launched by Santé Publique France in partnership with other institutions, the CONFEADO survey focuses on how children and adolescents aged 9 to 16 years experienced confinement in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic.
In order to prevent the risks of depression and mental disorders among young people, risk monitoring measures and prevention campaigns have been implemented by the Ministry of Health and its operators:
Santé publique France has strengthened its partnerships with Fil Santé Jeunes, an anonymous and free service for young people aged 12 to 25, offering a helpline, accessible 7 days a week, and a website providing information, a forum, a chat, and referral to help structures. Specific content has been created, particularly on the subject of Covid and malaise, providing information on warning signs, advice on how to take care of yourself and resources for young people.
In order to facilitate access to information and resources, a space dedicated to mental health during the COVID-19 epidemic was created on the Santé publique France website, listing reference sites and remote support systems, classified by theme (violence, bereavement, psychological distress, addictions, parenting, etc.) and by population (children, students, the elderly, etc.).
In addition to these measures launched as part of the health crisis, other measures aimed at preserving the mental health of young people are not, however, part of a national strategy for preserving the mental health of young people. These include:
- The association Premiers Secours en Santé Mentale France develops and deploys mental health first aid training modules that aim to destigmatise people suffering from mental disorders.
At the end of 2021, Santé publique France financed the association to develop a specific module for adults who are in daily contact with adolescents in order to help them spot the first signs of psychological disorders and to direct young people towards care adapted to their situation. Training in the "Youth" module was offered at the beginning of 2022.
- A national psychological support platform for students, santepsy.etudiant.gouv.fr, was launched on 10 March 2021 by the Ministry of Higher Education in partnership with the French Federation of Psychologists and Psychology. The health and psychology platform allows students with limited financial means to have access to free psychological consultations.
- In 2022, the association Nightline France launched a new website designed with students and professionals, and supported by the Ministry in charge of Health: "Le kit de vie" (the life kit), a tool to take care of one's mental health. It is a digital toolbox focused on well-being and mental health prevention that offers a personalised pathway designed around activities, practical sheets, questionnaires and mini-games to help manage a period of stress for example.
For the moment, the impact of these devices on young people's mental health has not been evaluated.
Revisions and updates
Combating suicidal behaviour
Since October 2021, a national suicide prevention number (3114) has been in place. This number has already received more than 25,000 calls, which in 10 to 15% of cases resulted in help being sent. It enables better management of suicidal crisis situations, with a view to supporting the person and also his or her relatives and professionals faced with difficult situations. The project will be developed to facilitate access for young people: identification actions on social networks, chat, etc.
The VigilanS contact system has also been strengthened. Now deployed in 16 out of 17 regions, for the benefit of the entire population, it enables the re-contact of people, including children and adolescents, who have attempted suicide. Adaptations of the protocol for younger people could be generalised.
Different schemes to improve the mental health of young people are available to young people.
- Reimbursement of psychologists for young people.
The "Mon Psy" scheme allows patients over 3 years of age with mild to moderate psychological disorders to be reimbursed for 8 sessions of psychological support per year. It is not open to patients with severe forms of psychological disorders, who must be treated by a psychiatrist. Practitioners' fees are set at €30 per session (€40 for the assessment interview for the first session) and cannot be exceeded. They are reimbursed at 60% by the health insurance system, the balance being covered by supplementary insurance. This annual package will be renewable, under the same conditions as the first.
- Geo-localised information portal
A "thematic section" for young people is set to be added to the Santé.fr portal, the public health information service currently being developed. This will be an online portal where young people can access reliable, geo-localised health information.
Not only that, but a number of trials aimed at fostering and nurturing well-being at school have been rolled out in secondary schools and sixth-form colleges (lycées) by teaching staff in liaison with their local education authority and regional health agencies in particular. These trials are listed in the Directory of educational trials (Bibliothèque des expérimentations pédagogiques), " l’expérithèque".
Several guides have also been produced by the Ministry for Solidarity and Health and Ministry of National Education: "Une école bienveillante face aux situations de mal-être des élèves - Guide à l’ attention des équipes éducatives des collèges et des lycées" [A caring school environment to address pupils' mental health problems - Guide for the attention of lower and upper secondary teaching staff]; "Souffrances psychiques et troubles du développement chez l’ enfant et l’ adolescent - Guide de repérage à l’ usage des infirmiers et assistants de service social de l’ Education nationale" [Mental suffering and developmental disorders in children and adolescents - Guide to detection for use by National Education social service assistants and nurses]; as well as the guide "Agir sur le climat scolaire au collège et au lycée" [Acting on the school climate at secondary school and sixth-form college].