Depression in France -
a journalist who suffers from depression
Suffering from depression and being
depressed. Are they the same, or not? My understanding is that a
person who suffers from depression is one who has been clinically
diagnosed by a professional, as I have. Being depressed can happen
to anyone, but it usually lasts only a short period of time,
temporary, often in November/December Ė the SAD syndrome. For
sufferers of clinical depression, it is a permanent feeling of
melancholia which manifests itself in different behavioural ways.
Researching recently to write an article on the subject, I was
looking for volunteers who had been diagnosed with depression Ė as
distinct from homesickness Ė when moving to live permanently abroad.
So my findings do not include people who have moved abroad
temporarily with their job or their partnerís job.
The majority of respondents had been clinically diagnosed in the UK
as suffering from depression. People had several years of treatment
behind them before leaving. Initially the move helped Ė new house,
new garden, new places to visit. But within 6 months many were back
on the slippery slope down.
Not surprisingly, most respondents were women. What is the response
when you ask someone if they are settled? Generally the men are
fine, and donít really want to go back to the UK. But the women all
say the same. ĎI miss my family, my girlfriends, girlie days outí.
And they are the people who knew us before we suffered from
depression, and who probably supported us when we were diagnosed.
You canít replace these people, when you move abroad. You miss them
like hell. And the last thing you mention when making new friends in
a new area/country is that you suffer from depression. They donít
want to know youíre carrying baggage with you.
And, at the end of the day, it is only fellow sufferers who can
empathise, as with any physical or psychological problem.
Like me, many of the contributors to my research have found that
their French doctor either prescribes anti-depressants or refers
them to a psychologist whose native tongue is not English, and the
language barrier is the biggest problem. Itís what prevents most of
us from moving forward. Most important on the positive side is
having an understanding and supportive partner.
There is a French Association of Behaviour and Cognitive Therapie,
and also an Association Francophone de Formation et Recher en
Therapie Comportementale et Cognitive. Thatís ok for French
depressives. What about expats?
All the respondents believe moving abroad, whilst initially having a
positive effect, has actually made their depression worse. We deal
with our Ďblack daysí in our own way, in some cases our partners
suffer with us. And we donít move on. Feelings of isolation and
loneliness exacerbate the depression. Sadly, some people resort to
drink, others experience a relationship break-up because the partner
canít deal with the worsening depression, others return to the UK.
So whatís the answer? Many sufferers would like to see self-help
groups set up, but thatís difficult in a country the size of France.
To form such a group in my area would involve an hourís drive for
some, and who would lead such a group?
We sufferers would very much like someone to come up with an
affordable and positive answer to help us move forward.
Iíve presented these results of my research to the charity
Depression Alliance, and Iím interested to see what results.