Coronavirus: French students highlight pandemic’s mental health toll

By Rita Faridi
BBC News, Paris

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionStudents protested against university coronavirus policies on Monday – but wider action is now planned in several cities

French students have planned a series of protests on Wednesday to draw attention to the rising mental health problems many say they are suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A combination of isolation, inactivity and a broader loss of purpose has left many students close to breakdown, according to university psychologists.

Student mental health resources, such as counsellors, have been overwhelmed by the numbers seeking help in recent weeks. In the last two weeks alone, two undergraduates in Lyon have tried to take their lives.

As in many countries, students in France have been unable to attend lectures for several months, and many are living away from home in cramped accommodation. The closure of cafes, bars, cinemas, and gyms means there is little scope for socialising or other activities. And since last Saturday all of France is under a curfew that starts at 18:00 every evening.

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"I've lived alone in a studio apartment since September – it's the first time I've ever lived alone," Ryan Kennedy, a 19-year-old law student in Montpellier, told the BBC. "Not a day goes by without a friend calling me because they're struggling with their mental health."

lly Benyoussef, a 20-year-old student in Paris, added: "Not being able to go to the movies or the theatre means I spend even more time on my phone or laptop watching silly videos. I really miss going out."