Attack at Arras high school: a psychological unit set up. What is his role ?

Attack at Arras high school: a psychological unit set up.  What is his role ?

A knife attack took place in a high school in Arras, in Pas-de-Calais. A young man aged 20 killed a teacher and injured two other people. Following this tragedy, a psychological unit was set up. What is his role ? Details from our expert.

This is a new tragedy affecting National Education, on October 13, 2023. A young man of Chechen origin, who would be listed as S for radicalization and known to the police, would have entered the Gambetta high school in the town of ‘Arras (Pas-de-Calais), armed with a knife. In his attack, he allegedly killed a teacher and lightly injured another, as well as a security guard, more seriously, with several stab wounds.

“He was a reserved, calm student”

As with every serious event, a medical-psychological emergency unit (CUMP) was opened. The drama which unfolded this morning in this high school is all the more traumatic for the students and the staff who work there because the main suspect was a former student of the establishment.

According to one of the high school’s PE teachers, Fabien Dufay, who knew the suspect when he was in his final year, it was “a reserved, calm student. We never suspect our students of taking action one day. He was truly an average student.” reports the Parisian.

What is a psychological cell?

The medico-psychological emergency unit is a system put in place during a serious event, such as this knife attack. It generally takes place at the scene of the tragedy, in this case the high school, to allow people who wish to express themselves.

The medico-psychological emergency unit (CUMP) is governed by a decree. They have existed since the Paris attacks in 1995 and were officially put in place in 1997, it is not a new system” explained Hélène Romano, psychologist, doctor in psychopathology and referent for fifteen years at CUMP 94, in Val-de-Marne.

There is a CUMP per department, attached to the SAMU and reachable via 15 (from a landline) or 112 (from a mobile phone)” can we actually read on the official government page dedicated to the system.

Precisely, the medico-psychological emergency cell is therefore a device triggered by the Samu, following a disaster, an attack or as here, a knife attack.

What is the role of the psychological unit?

The objective of the CUMP is therefore to sort through all the people present during the traumatic event. “There may be many people to take care of” added the psychologist. “In this case, we must distinguish between people in a state of overwhelmed stress, who are those who must be taken care of as quickly as possible, and the others, those said to be in a state of adapted stress..

The psychological unit therefore allows health professionals to identify subjects in a state of stress, in order to help them overcome the traumatic event they have been confronted with. “These are the ones who will be paralyzed or on the contrary in a state of panic flight or in a state of automatic driving. These people must be controlled because they can put themselves in danger through their behavior.” she says again. “For others, it will be more about listening, people need to talk, not necessarily about what happened, but about other tragedies, other deaths… They can also cry or scream because “event brings things up in them.”

Where and how long does a psychological cell remain open?

It all depends on the location of the tragedy. “In large public places, such as airport terminals, a fabric tent can be set up by the Samu or the Red Cross, in order to provide a designated place for victims, where they can come and talk. But sometimes, this can be in a town hall, a municipal social action center (CCAS). It was in a hospital during the Paris attacks, for example… We adapt each time, while trying to choose a location close to the event with a secure environment, with toilets and segregation. journalists. Then, as the days go by, the place of care may change, but it will always have to be premises where people will feel safe.”

As part of this knife attack, the psychological unit could therefore be installed in the high school, in order to take care of staff and students. According to Hélène Romano, a CUMPS generally lasts until the victims’ funerals.

And if the follow-up is not sufficient, people can, in the long term, continue their follow-up with liberal psychologists or within medical-psychological centers (CMP).