Mental health: “Women pay a high price”, according to Pascale Martin

Mental health: "Women pay a high price", according to Pascale Martin

The annual cost for mental health problems amounts to 23.4 billion euros, making it the largest item of expenditure for health insurance. Prevention and training would reduce both trouble and expense. A project to be carried out as a priority with women, who are more concerned than men.

Why are you advocating for different mental health care for women?

Pascal Martin: Women are twice as affected as men by depression and three times more by anxiety disorders. Men also have mental health problems, but women much more. We must therefore tackle what is most urgent. And it is, if we want to restore equality. Which doesn’t mean ignoring men’s mental health, of course.

Why are women more affected?

They experience more violence throughout their lives. It starts in childhood, with beatings, sexual assaults – more numerous among little girls – and incest. In adolescence, girls are more sensitive than boys. When you live in a patriarchal society, as a girl, you don’t find your place in the same way as boys and you don’t allow yourself as many things.

The High Council for Equality has, for example, shown that girls go less towards certain sectors, in particular science or digital technology. Admittedly, things are getting better, but very slowly. Later, women experience motherhood differently from men. The issue of postpartum depression has long been ignored and there is still no real support to inform first-time parents. Finally, there is menopause, which also remains very little discussed.

In the report, you highlight the reference to a male model from the medical research, which then influences the care…

Indeed, all the tests of the pharmaceutical laboratories are carried out on men. However, the same drug sometimes does not have the same effect whether you are a man or a woman. All laboratory tests should be done on men, and on women.

Has this phenomenon increased in recent years?

The problem today is that we no longer have sufficient resources to deal with mental health issues. Teenagers have 30% more anxiety disorders since Covid. If left untreated, it may get worse. The public service, which should deal with prevention and care for adolescents, is on the verge of collapse. There is a lack of professionals everywhere and waiting times are very long. We must reintroduce the public health service. Will the government follow? We will see if the new Minister of Health will approach the subject differently. I don’t believe in it very much.

What are the main recommendations of the report?

Three are priority. First of all prevention. Often, we are in pain because we have not been sufficiently informed that this pain could happen. When we know things, we can fight them better. Afterwards, there is the training of professionals brought into contact with women, and this, in all sectors, both police, gendarmerie, medical and medico-social justice. The third element is support. I’m talking about 100% reimbursement of costs related to mental health issues.

Otherwise, we risk having a two-speed medicine, which, unfortunately, is already installed. People will have the financial means to do psychotherapy and will be able to get out of their discomfort. The most precarious, they will find themselves hospitalized for weeks for lack of being treated in time. If we act for mental health, we act for society. And we reduce the costs which are very important and which we can invest for something else.

What is the next stage of this report, adopted unanimously by the Delegation, and which for the moment only has an informative value?

This is the Social Security Financing Bill (PLFSS) which will be held in the fall. Anne-Cécile Violland (the second rapporteur, member of the Horizons group – Editor’s note) and myself, we intend to table amendments on this subject on this occasion. Some may be cross-partisan, and we will also each have our own amendments.

For my part, I’m going to present it to the feminist movement and medical and social personnel. Today, unfortunately, a gap is growing between civil society and politics. It’s quite dramatic. Me, I am very attentive to what is happening in civil society and I think that is where we find the best answers.

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