For almost a year now, the majority of European countries have been submerged by the pandemic. All too cautious, national governments have continued to modify their roadmaps in the hope of keeping their economies and citizens afloat. As endlessly remodeled rules were rolled out, young people became a convenient scapegoat throughout European society. But, with closed colleges, virtual courses, deferred exams, and internship and job cuts, how are Europe’s youth actually handling this unprecedented crisis?
In France, the students are troubled
According to a survey of 45,000 students conducted by the National Observatory of Student Life, 31 percent of respondents showed signs of psychological distress during the first period of lockdown in France, from March 10 to May 11 2020. Among the respondents, 11.7 percent claimed to have had suicidal thoughts, as opposed to 7.6 percent of the remaining population.
We discussed these figures with Florian Tirana, president of Nightline France, the helpline established in 2017 and run by students to provide emotional support to their peers. According to Tirana, both lockdowns led to a significant increase in calls received by Nightline teams: “we quickly reached saturation point in terms of the number of calls we were able to deal with”, Tirana declares.
Leading the list of concerns most frequently broached during these calls are loneliness, relationship problems and career prospects. Are these fears specific to the Covid crisis? Not really, says Tirana. “Psychological distress has always been an issue among students. Looking at the figures from 20 or 30 years back, one third of students were already experiencing psychological distress”.
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While French students seem to have always been prone to despair, this has only been exacerbated by the lockdowns. “When, in adulthood, you find yourself locked inside for weeks with your parents, friction is never far away”, says Tirana.
Among the most common reasons for calling Nightline France, fears concerning the future are second from the top. “What will my future be when I’ve finished my studies? How will I find an i…