The Paris-based team of reporter John Leicester, video journalist Nicolas Garriga and photographer Thibault Camus produced an extraordinarily candid all-formats package that takes AP readers and clients inside a French psychiatric hospital where psychiatrists find themselves on the front line of the pandemic’s mental health fallout, treating suicidal young adults driven to despair by the privations of the pandemic and crushing solitude of lockdowns.
France has proved a challenging environment for reporting the pandemic, with public health authorities reluctant to open hospital doors to international reporters. But after the recent breakthrough of embedding AP journalists for 24 hours in southern France’s biggest hospital, the Paris team secured a full day of access to the 535-bed Rouvray Hospital Center in the Normandy town of Rouen.
Leicester was allowed to sit in on sessions as people poured out their anguish to psychiatrists. Garriga shot interviews in a way that protected patients’ identities but also enabled them to speak freely to the AP team, including a young student who plunged back into deep depression after the fight against COVID-19 diverted resources away from her treatment. And Camus discreetly wandered corridors with patients, capturing the sprawling establishment’s quiet and otherworldly feel in a riveting photo package.