On a deserted sidewalk, a few figures stroll without dragging towards the Manufacture des Tabacs, one of the sites of the Jean-Moulin Lyon 3 University. the rare passages to a silent campus. “It had been a week since I last went out”, slides Cassandra, 21 years old. ” Go out ? To do what ? “, adds Anne, one of her classmates in law degree, political science option.
Both are members of the “Generation Covid” collective, created in the aftermath of the tragedy that struck this university. On January 9, a student from Lyon 3 broke out of the window from the fourth floor of his city U and was hospitalized in serious condition.
Three days later, still in the same city, a student tried to jump into the void, before being detained. The two suicide attempts aroused strong emotion in a student community already marked by the immolation of a young man, in November 2019.
In a few days, the group opened by “Generation Covid” on Facebook was joined by 2,000 people and dozens of testimonies poured in, evoking the difficulties of girls and boys isolated for weeks and deprived of resources. “It frees the floor, while the Covid has broken the human mix of the university”, underlines Innocent, one of the creators of the collective.
“We try to recreate links”
These students do not arise in “Psychologists”. They serve as megaphones, exchange with benevolence, indicate the existence of assistance devices. “ It is our way of being useful, many are ashamed to say that they are in precariousness ”, sums up Corentin. “It brought to light situations that I never imagined, continues Cassandra. Wetries to recreate links, it allows us to become human again. “
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This Thursday, January 21, “Generation Covid” will be associated with the demonstration that will start from the Tobacco Factory to denounce the precarious living conditions of students. “We are reaching the end of our rope, there is general fatigue”, alert Laura Lehmann, registered in Lyon 3 and president of the Gaelis association, member of the Federation of general student associations (Fage). “We impose a prison regime on these young people”, also considers Catherine Fillon, professor of legal history.
This teacher participated last March in the creation of another collective, “Student Solidarity”. In addition to the distribution of the packed lunches, a listening unit was created, run on a voluntary basis by psychologists. Five of them take turns, including weekends. “These are the hardest times, she describes. We are still following people who contacted us in the spring. The majority scenario remains that of the foreign student blocked in Lyon and impoverished. “
“They can meet people, for real”
For them, this association also offers a sponsorship system with families who can accommodate them for a meal or show them around the city. About sixty young people benefit from it. “They can meet people in real life, without a screen, it’s great”, says Catherine Fillon.
Psychological support for Lyon students has also been reinforced by a system set up by the Jean-Bergeret Regional Institute, specializing in prevention in mental health, with the support of the Métropole de Lyon.
As for the universities, they will be able to take advantage of government measures. Lyon 3 must therefore have a second psychologist. “This will make one psychologist for 15,000 students, it remains much less than in equivalent countries and much less than the international recommendations, which are 1 in 1,500”, recalls Florian Tirana, president of Nightline France, who published a report on the subject last November.
“A listening service is not everything”
This association sets up listening services for and by students. Its Lyon branch was opened in the fall. Twelve volunteers listen to their peers in the secrecy of anonymity. To meet demand, the number of these “listeners” will soon double.
“We are reaching saturation, resumes Florian Tirana. The current crisis reveals many things, it accentuates the problems, but the phenomenon of the psychological distress of the students is not new. In France, there isn’t really a service to take charge of their mental health, and I am in a good position to know that a listening service is not everything. “
The government has announced the recruitment of 80 psychologists, or doubling the current staff, and 60 additional social workers within universities, a reinforcement that must be sustained until the end of 2021.
The creation of a “mental health check” is under consideration. It would be used to finance consultations with a city psychologist for students in difficulty.
1,600 “referent” positions have been created in the 800 university residences managed by the CROUS. These students are notably responsible for fighting against the isolation of their peers.