UPDATE: Improve mental health services and awareness at Sciences Po PSIA

This petition made change with 153 supporters!

To everyone who signed this petition:

We are incredibly grateful for your support and sign ups. When the PSIA Secretariat came to know of our petition, they immediately extended an invitation to have a conversation with them. Thus, four of us (Daisy Alphonso, Rashmi Rangarajan, Alaric Moras and Giulia Urbina) met with Dean Letta, Vice Dean Scherrer, Dr. Tarragano and Dr. Miriam.

Through our hour long conversation, we realized that there was a communication gap between the School and its students. The following points were raised, which have allayed our fears:

- A new psychiatrist will join Drs. Tarragano and Miriam from the next academic session. The new Doctor is trilingual and speaks English, French and German.

- Between Drs. Tarragano and Miriam, 3000 appointments are granted to students on the Paris campus per year. They also give students external references to psychologists.

- The Pole Santé has resolved to consider a host of measures including printed documents and leaflets explaining its services and the process for getting help in a timely fashion. They are also considering workshops for sensitising students to their services.

- The Academic Advisor is your first source of contact for any problem, academic or personal during the course of your studies at Sciences Po. They will be able to direct you to the right centers and sources for help.

- The entire PSIA Secretariat, right from the Dean onwards have made it clear that their doors always remain open to each and every student needing any sort of help. They welcome their students walking into their doors at anytime. They received us very warmly and look forward to continue working with us and you all for the betterment of Sciences Po in general and PSIA in particular.

We shall take down this petition in 7 days' time. Thank you once again for everything.

Dear Mr Enrico Letta, Mrs Vanessa Scherrer, Mr Andreas Roessner, and Mrs Elsa Geroult,

After reading and participating in discussions on mental health at Sciences Po Paris in PSIA students groups and pages on Facebook, we have decided that the next step would be to take action. We are writing this for everyone who has ever experienced or is experiencing mental health problems at Sciences Po and we hope that writing this down will also help us reconcile with a part of ourselves that needs to be better understood and accepted. We are aware of the difficulty of tackling such a delicate topic and we will do our best to write this to the best of our ability.

Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or panic disorder should not be surrounded by stigma anymore and should be talked about openly. According to the WHO one in four people will be affected by mental health problems at some point in their lives. Students are bound to experience and undergo severe stress with respect to high achievement expectations, pressure of exams and deadlines for submissions, along with feelings of homesickness and loneliness leading to exhaustion and burnout. Often, students experiencing mental health issues fear asking help, and sometimes may not even know who to approach in such situations. One of the most effective ways to address these concerns is through early intervention and having regular conversations about this in campuses with the help of high-quality mental health services. PSIA students are in a dire need of improved access to quality mental health support. The Sciences Po Health Centre is currently overwhelmed by the demands they receive from students asking for appointments with the psychologists.

Please find here the numerous posts on mental health sent anonymously by Sciences Po students.

Also, have a look at this open letter comprising a testimony of a student from the SciencesPo Menton campus:

We would also like to point out something of crucial importance: mental health problems are like having a broken leg, only that they are invisible to the people surrounding the individuals who have them. People usually have trouble dealing with something that they don’t know and cannot see. In Darkness Visible, William Styron compares the state of the individual experiencing depression to ‘the situation of the walking wounded’ and points out that if it were the case of a physical, visible illness, the patient would be carefully cared for, their invalidism being ‘necessary, unquestioned and honorably attained’. Instead, individuals experiencing mental health problems are supposed to behave as if they are not wounded inside and perform their usual tasks, such as socialising perfectly in day-to-day situations. However, it is a struggle to keep up the appearance of their former self when they are unwell.  

We request you to seriously consider the following suggestions in order to help combat these very real and painful concerns regarding the mental health of students at PSIA:

  • Increasing the number of English speaking counsellors and/or psychologists at the Sciences Po Health Centre and the number of appointments available for students. Currently, there are only two psychologists available with only one of them being English speaking for a total of more than 1300 international students at PSIA. 
  • Increasing the visibility of mental health practitioners at Sciences Po through flyers and PSIA newsletter and increasing both formal and informal discussions around mental health within PSIA among both professors and students needs to be initiated.
  • Reducing the number of courses to be mandatorily taken. Students have to take 7 to 8 courses in order to fulfill the mandate of 30 to 32 credits for each semester. Each of these courses require 2 to 4 hours a week of instruction in classes, out of which students are allowed to miss only two sessions for each course. The system teaches us to do several things as best as we can in too little time to obtain the best result, rather than focusing on fewer things and boosting a learning process in which each student has the time to dedicate to what he/she studies. The final result is doing the most with smallest effort, not doing the readings if not compulsorily, not paying attention in class because of other homework for a different course having to be done at the same time. Fewer classes would also have the benefit of allowing a smaller class size, thus raising academic standards.
  • Assignments and paper submissions should be evenly spread throughout the semester. When the semester begins to approach to an end there is a rush and accumulation of deadlines, almost all at the same time within the time frame of one to two weeks only. This considerably leads to stress and panic among students rushing to complete the submissions.

Kind regards,

Anastasia Cojocaru, Rashmi Rangarajan, Pierre du Plessis, Cristina Chiran, and Alaric Moras




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