A shrug of the shoulders. This is Pauline’s response when asked if morale is good. No need to walk the alleys of Rennes campuses for hours to meet young people worried about their future, in a situation of dropping out or in low morale. Like the inhabitants of the city, the students are in the grip of psychological distress. At the Rennes 2 Student Health Service (SSE), the number of psychological consultations increased by 20% compared to last year. According to Patricia Legris, vice-president of “Health, Solidarity and Social Support for Students” of the faculty, out of more than 4,500 health procedures performed since September 2020, almost 1,000 treatments have been related to mental health. She underlines that this concerns students “already well established in their schooling”. Young people who are “not necessarily in educational difficulties or in a situation of isolation or precariousness”. “We are seeing a very significant increase in eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia, malnutrition), sleep disorders, resumption of addictions (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, etc.). The situations are more complex and also combine social difficulties and health problems, ”she continues. While reinforcements from the team of psychologists have arrived, waiting times remain long (up to five weeks) due to the very high number of requests.
Students “reduced to their academic performance”
Another place dedicated to supporting students, the University Psychological Assistance Office (BAPU) records 50% of additional requests. To answer this, the ARS and the Métropole de Rennes each funded a full-time psychologist position. Danièle Olive, psychiatrist in charge of the BAPU, details. “The social bond or associative commitment is a point of support. A balance which is, for some, lost ”. The doctor specifies that students can feel “reduced to their university performance” and that it is often necessary to “rekindle the feeling of life and of self-esteem”.
But health crisis or not, the psychiatrist insists on the moment of vulnerability represented by the years of higher education. “Students mobilize new things to get out of childhood, calling into question their previous support. Mental health must be taken into account beyond the pandemic, there is something structural ”. The age group, which goes from 17 to 25 years, is also the period when the rate of suicide, accident or mental decompensation is the highest. “Responding quickly means doing prevention to avoid these situations”.
17 referenced Rennes psychologists
Support groups between students on social networks, workshops on the theme of health and well-being organized by the university: there is no shortage of initiatives… But nothing replaces the follow-up of a mental health professional. Announced at the end of January by President Emmanuel Macron, the “psy checks” device allows students to obtain the payment of three consultations with a psychologist on the advice of a doctor. A support platform open since March 10, 2021 makes it possible to identify partner professionals. 17 Rennes psychologists are already listed there. As for the Villejean SSE, the device is still under construction but should be effective very soon. “This should be able to meet the urgent demand of students in psychological distress” hopes Patricia Legris.
Be careful with hotlines
The head of the BAPU, Danièle Olive, warns all the same on one point: “We cannot ask students to take charge of the mental health of other students”. It refers to helplines run by volunteers, such as Night line. The establishment of a Rennes branch of this platform is in the pipeline, with the support of the Métropole de Rennes, and could see the light of day at the start of the 2021 school year. cannot replace the work of a professional “warns the psychiatrist, before concluding:” The crises can be deep, noisy, sometimes take a dramatic turn but it is possible to find the sensitive point, to identify what encumbers the young people, to be closer to their own desire and to find what matters to them ”. Hope, therefore, for the suffering students.
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