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Exploring mental health carers’ caregiving experiences in France

Nancy Santiago De Jesus (LEPS – Sorbonne Paris Cité, Université Paris 13 UFR de Santé médecine et biologie humaine – Léonard da Vinci, Bobigny, France and FHF - Fédération Hospitalière de France, Hopitaux de Saint-Maurice, Saint Maurice, France)
Aurelie Maurice (LEPS – Sorbonne Paris Cité, Université Paris 13 UFR de Santé médecine et biologie humaine – Léonard da Vinci, Bobigny, France)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 16 July 2020

Issue publication date: 16 July 2020




France, once a pioneer in psychiatry, is now sinking as its population faces major mental health challenges. This includes the 12 Million French individuals with psychiatric conditions, the lack of appropriate structures and the shortage of skilled mental health professionals, but it also leaves families in critical situations. The purpose of this study is to explore the carers’ caregiving experiences and to suggest ways to organise educational programmes to support mental health carers in France.


The research was conducted from January 2018 to November 2019. It included French carers of patients with mental conditions. Recorded semi-structured interviews were used and findings were analysed through an inductive thematic analysis and regrouped into key themes.


Participants had overwhelming negative representations of “mental illness”. The fact that they were excluded from participating in the patient’s health management further added to their misconceptions around mental disability, it limited their communication with their family and amplified their burdens.

Research limitations/implications

There is an urgent need for carer empowerment; carers should be included in educational programmes, they should benefit from French Government subsidies and social-network assistance and receive quality assistance by trained mental health professionals. The critical situation of carers can only be addressed by combining these three steps and through the action of appropriate actors in the field of mental health, thus alleviating the current paradigm of psychiatric care in France.


Thousands of research papers regarding carers have been published in other countries. In addition yet, to the knowledge, only a few investigations on French mental health carers have been conducted to this day. The singularity of this research lies in the rare individual interviews, which provided us with first-hand testimonies of mental health carers in France. This data could be of vital aid for professionals and for policymakers when advocating for better support of carers in mental health.



This study received no financial support for the research, authorship and publication of this article. The corresponding author would like to thank: Ms. Aurélie Maurice PhD, article director, for the guidance and helpful comments on earlier manuscripts. Ms. Stéphanie Avalle, Clinical Psychologist and the carers from UNAFAM who shared their experiences and took part in interviews. Dr. Rémi Gagnayre, Mr. Cyril Crozet PhD and the professors at LEPS of the University Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Nord. As well as family, friends and colleagues who advised, encouraged, listened, helped and were sources of inspiration and motivation despite all the challenges of life.


De Jesus, N.S. and Maurice, A. (2020), "Exploring mental health carers’ caregiving experiences in France", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 207-221.



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