Mental Health – the French way

Warning: this post may make you green with envy if you are in the NHS’ mental health system!

Today I had my first appointment with a French psychiatrist.


Having seen the GP it took about a week for my appointment to come through, that was for another week’s time. None of your 3 or 4 (or more) months of waiting!

We appeared at the clinic and let the secretary know we were here. While we waited to see the secretary a psychiatrist (who happened to be the one I would see) came and said hi and shook our hands with a smile on his face. The secretary took my details, again with a smile, and asked us to wait in the waiting room.

After about a 15 minute wait the psychiatrist came to get me and we wandered in to his large, light, airy room. He sat down and took some basic details, complimented my French (oh yes, teachers pet I am!) and read through the information we brought from the UK before heading off to photocopy them (himself!).

He was really chatty, didn’t question anything I said. He took my word as law, what I said I felt he believed (what a wonderful difference that was!). He went through the meds I had from the UK, said the anti-depressants I was on were very good and he’d continue those. He then asked some more about my mood, how I slept and other general things like that.

I explained that my mood was up and down (as I’m sure many of you can testify too!) and then said that in the UK I was told that I didn’t get manic enough to be Bipolar. He looked somewhat confused before saying, “In France, you are bipolar!”

So there you have it! In France an up and down mood is bipolar, and they treat it, not with lithium but (for me anyway) with “young drugs” that have no side effects and are designed for long-term use. He’s prescribed 2 new drugs to me; one to manage my sleep pattern and one to even out my mood. He told me it was very¬†important to take them correctly and if I had any worried or questions I must ring and speak to him.

He was so relaxed and put me at ease immediately. He listened to everything I said and asked me to bring in some of my writing so he could understand more how I felt. He told me over and over that if I had any questions I must ring and speak to him, that he’d see me every month but if I had any problems in between to go and see him, not the GP. “The Dr will do your head and heart and blood, I will help what’s inside your head.”¬†Additionally he’s sending me for blood tests and an ECG so he knows what he’s dealing with!

The entire experience was…amazing. Rather than leaving stressed, upset, feeling ignored, like a liar or a waste of space, I left upbeat, thrilled at the idea that it can be managed, that maybe I can make a life for myself without constantly having to consider my illness(es!).

So in short: France rocks, England sucks and I aint coming back!


  1. Michael Lawson

    I’m very happy for you. We have a lot of doctor experience with my youngest daughter (Stories for another time, I wish we could meet for coffee or tea). It’s such a relief to find one that listens and understands that while you may not know all the medical lingo, you know how you feel. You know your body and mind better than anyone else. I hope this is the start to a new beginning for you ~virtual hug~

    1. Livi

      Thanks hun. It really was such a change and a great relief. Although it made me think: isn’t it awful that we’re impressed by people being nice and listening! Shouldn’t that be what we’re used to in our healthcare!

      1. Michael Lawson

        You are so right. There are certainly different kinds of professionals in the world. Some are just going threw the motions to get a paycheck, some just want recognition (look at me and all the good things I want you to know I am doing) , and some just do the right thing, the good thing, and benefit in a far more complete way.

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