Covid: 5 questions for Boris Cyrulnik to understand the psychological consequences of the health crisis

Boris Cyrulnik was the guest of Corsica Sera on Saturday. The neuropsychiatrist addressed the psychological and political consequences of the coronavirus crisis.

Boris Cyrulnik is a specialist in resilience. In psychology, this notion refers to the capacity of an individual to overcome the painful moments of existence and to develop, despite adversity.

The neuropsychiatrist was the guest of Corsica Sera on Saturday. He notably returned to the psychological consequences of the coronavirus crisis on populations.

  • We talk a lot about the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus, but little about the psychological risk, what are the risks for individuals?

Confinement, which is physical protection, is psychic assault. There is a very great inequality of reactions.

Those who, before confinement, had acquired protective factors: the ability to speak, a stable family, a diploma, these will come out of confinement calmed, sometimes even improved by confinement.

Conversely, those who before confinement had acquired vulnerability factors: unstable family, poor access to language, small diploma therefore low salary, therefore small housing, these will experience confinement as a trauma and will leave confinement. aggravated.

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The empty streets of Ajaccio during confinement.

© Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / AFP

  • So this increased social inequalities?

Exactly. That is to say that social inequality was already great before, since we live in a surprisingly divided society. This social inequality is aggravated by confinement.

  • We are seeing the rise of a very great distrust of the population vis-à-vis governments, the strategies put in place: the figures are disputed, tensions are heightened, how do we get out of this situation of tension?

In all epidemics, in all periods of war, the government is highly criticized. We no longer believe. It's annoying because when you no longer believe those you elected, you submit to gurus.

We see sects appear, we see incredible ideas appearing, currently conspiratorial. But this is what happens in all wars or in all situations of social insecurity.

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The Covid service at the Bastia hospital at the peak of the coronavirus epidemic.


  • So this health and economic crisis could have very serious political consequences?

Absolutely. After a crisis like a pandemic or after a war there are schematically three solutions: either, we put back in place what worked before, that is to say hyper consumption, hyper mobility, responsible for epidemic, and in three years there will be a new virus.

The second solution is when you are distraught, after periods of social knockout, almost always comes a savior who says: "I, I know where the truth is, vote for me, I will save you."We see that currently in all countries in social knockout, many dictators are currently democratically elected.

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Vacationers arriving at Ajaccio airport a few months after the deconfinement.

© Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / AFP

The third solution is that it forces us to make a cultural change: change our trips, change human relationships … In this case, we see that very often, after an epidemic, we see a social improvement.

  • You are the specialist in resilience, what are the keys to getting out of this crisis in a way a little less gloomy than what you have just described to us?

It should have started at birth (laughs). That is to say that we now know that our president appointed me president of a commission for the first 1,000 days, and we now know that it is the base that strengthens a baby.

If those first 1,000 days are successful, it's not won for life, but at least it's off to a good start. If there are wounds then, it is not lost for life, but it will have to be compensated and there is the process of resilience.

The smaller the child, the easier the resilience, but the easier the traumas. This means that we can teach a baby the pleasure of talking, the pleasure of meeting and in this case, we give him protective factors.

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