Suicide attempts, depression and financial difficulties: the drama of the students in France

Ange-William Etienne is from Ivory Coast but studies Law in France. He lives in a student residence where, including state aid, he pays 400 euros per month. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has lost his job and much of the social contact that his university courses offered him.

“It has been difficult: all my neighbors have returned to their parents. There is a feeling of loneliness, precariousness, concern for the future … They told us we could call a psychologist, but we are 30,000 students at this university … Imagine that all the students call the only psychologist they have … He will not be able to do it, “Etienne told Euronews.

This Lyon I university student has received a symbolic financial aid from the State but following the online classes in his 17-square-meter flat has been quite difficult.

“There were online classes. Some teachers gave explanations, others didn’t. We had to deal with it alone. Afterwards I felt like my level and motivation to study had dropped a lot,” he confessed.

According to a study carried out in France, a third of students say they suffered “severe anguish” during confinement. Two suicide attempts in a week in the city of Lyon have set off alarms. The students took to the streets to protest to denounce the precariousness of their situation.

Others try to help. On the Lyon I campus, where some classes have returned to normal, a group of students runs a solidarity food store that allows hundreds of students with difficulties to buy food 10 times cheaper.

The demand for psychological support has also increased. At Le Vinatier psychiatric hospital, more and more students are making a call for help. Specialists help them but sometimes the situation requires immediate intervention.

Eve Becache, head of the hospital’s assistance unit for students, explained to Euronews that “it may be a psychological disorder or great anguish” experienced by young people who seek the support of their unit. It can also be depression. But he details that “the most extreme situation that has occurred is that of a student who calls because he is on the edge of a window. In this case, we immediately send the ambulance service and the police to come to the rescue.”

But not all students make the call. So in this campus, the nurses go door to door to monitor the mood of the students. However, this system does not exist everywhere. France has an average of 1 psychologist for every 30,000 students, much less than in Canada, Ireland or Austria.

President Emmanuel Macron has announced the return to universities one day a week, access to two meals of one euro a day and financial aid for visits to psychologists. Although he has warned that “a return to normalcy” will not be possible in the coming weeks.