Arturo is a 2nd year undergraduate student studying on the Poitiers campus. He was born in France but has lived the majority of his life in Mexico. He got his baccalaureate from a Franco-Mexican school, and he chose Sciences Po because social engagement is an important part of the curriculum. Read the interview with Arturo who is engaged and committed, well beyond the confines of the campus, to mental health issues...
Can you tell us about your civic engagement?
This year, I am doing my community internship at the National Association of Alcohol and Addiction Prevention. We work on various projects focusing mostly on preventing and reducing risks, such as workshops on narcotics in the Vivonne prison. Our flagship project this year, run by the Regional Health Agency, is to develop a network of “student resources”, who will be given psycho-social training. These students will serve as links between the student community and Public Health Authorities, with regards to mental health issues.
How do you plan to train these students? How will they be selected?
We help them develop their psycho-social skills and teach them ways to deal with student welfare issues, for example interpersonal relationships, coping with stress, and managing emotions. The content of the training programme is in the development stage, and we hope to put it into place in time for the start of the 2019 academic year. Student mentors will be chosen according to their involvement in university life (health or social work, clinical experience, etc.) The University of Poitiers is a pilot site for this project which, if successful, we would like to deploy on a national scale.
You seem really committed to the cause. Beyond helping your community, what does it represent for you?
I feel that suicide is completely overlooked by the media, despite the fact that there are a million suicides a year. It is still a taboo subject. The National Observatory for Student Life reports many cases of student depression and attempted suicide. Students often struggle to find someone to talk to about their problems. Training students so that they can help their peers allows us to maintain the Institution’s Duty of Care, which people often do not know about. In addition, it is much easier to speak to another student, in an informal context, about complicated situations. This all helps to remove the controversy surrounding suicide.
Is this your first experience in this sector?
No, last year I did a 7 week internship in Bogota that allowed me to experience a range of institutions. First of all, I worked for a private foundation which helps young people, mostly from more privileged families, to overcome drug addictions. I then joined a public foundation which helps people in situations of poverty and social deprivation, which gave me a completely different perspective. Finally, I spent some time in the psychiatric ward of a public hospital in the south of Bogota, and at the National Institute of Prisons and Penitentiaries. Through all of this, I gained a more global vision, which I hope will help me with our current project which concerns about 25,000 students.
What’s next for you?
I am going to spend my 3rd year in the United States, at the University of Pennsylvania, in preparation for a master’s degree in management. Obviously, I will continue to be committed to causes I am involved in. I have already noticed that the University of Pennsylvania offers medical training: I will definitely try to make the most of my time there and take part in some mental health projects.