Tuesday January 12, late morning. Heïdi Soupault has just taken his European Union law exam, remotely, behind his computer screen in his student room. Here it is already necessary to dive back into the revisions of comparative politics, always through the screen. The student, in her second year at Sciences-Po Strasbourg, feels ” truly bad “ for several days and “Cry more and more”. She finds that her life has “No longer really makes sense”.
However, the young woman, originally from Lille, had experienced the first confinement, during which her exams had been canceled, which had “Relieved of stress in relation to lessons”. But now, distance learning, she does not “No longer see the end”. Since the resumption after the holidays, she has talked a lot with her friends. All share the apprehension of a second semester still at a distance. A few days earlier, a student from Lyon tried to end his life by throwing himself from the window of his university residence.
“I never had dark thoughts, but there was a part of me that told me it could start like this, Heïdi admits. You get depressed, you cry, you don’t want to do anything, you no longer have enthusiasm and then you come to this. It’s still scary! “ And his anger arises: “There have to be students committing suicide for people to react, it’s still crazy! “ she exclaims.
A bottle in the sea
It is therefore “An overflow of emotions” which led Heïdi to sit down at his desk that day and put his feelings down on the keyboard. “Writing is my outlet, it helps me understand myself”, she reveals. His first words will be: “Mr. President, at 19, I feel like I’m dead. “ In this open letter addressed to Emmanuel Macron, she describes her daily life in the student room which serves as her kitchen, place of rest and entertainment, but especially studies since mid-October. And she signs her letter calling herself “Living dead”.
“I’m fine, physically I don’t have any problems, but I feel dead inside and socially. I was not efficient in my studies when I had only that to do, so that also translated into a loss of confidence in me. I had the impression of no longer having a personality, and I no longer had a taste for anything ”, details the one who describes herself as happy, “Not the type to be depressed”.
After having had two friends read it over, she decided to post this ” bottle in the sea “, to alert on the condition of the students. “I find it hard to go back to what I wanted at the time: maybe some kind of mutual recognition between students, or attention. It was not political, it was really personal, what I felt ”, she explains. After the publication, Heïdi leaves her home, the college students she teaches are waiting for her.
The president’s response
When she leaves her student job, Heïdi is bombarded with messages, her publication has been loved and shared many times. His text found an echo. She doesn’t quite understand what’s going on, but accepts the media exposure. In one afternoon, Heïdi becomes one of the spokespersons for the suffering of the students, this “Sacrificed generation”.
A few days later, it is the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, who answers him. Not the expected answer, since he asks her to hold out again. “I was very sad because I had given a lot of myself, put my modesty aside by speaking in the media to say that it was not right. It killed the hope I had of going back to face-to-face. I told myself that my second semester was going to be the same, that it was going to be horrible ”, confesses the young woman.
Finally, a week later, Emmanuel Macron announces university meals at one euro and the return to one day of face-to-face per week for all students. Heïdi is finally smiling again: “There, it was really the big joy because I did not believe it any more. I’m not proud in “it’s thanks to me” mode but I tell myself it’s cool! It was used for something and I did not do it all for nothing. “
30% of students in psychological distress
According to the National Observatory of Student Life (OVE), which conducts a survey every three years on the living conditions of students, 30% of them show signs of psychological distress, against 20% during the previous consultation in 2016.
The survey, conducted between March and May 2020 and the results of which have just been unveiled, also indicates that 40% of students exercise a paid activity during their studies and that 26% feel they do not have enough money to cover their needs. monthly. A situation worsened by the health crisis, with the closure of universities and the loss of student jobs.
OVE carried out a complementary study following the first containment, which revealed that
50% of students said they had suffered from loneliness or isolation during this time and 33% said they had encountered financial difficulties.