A day after a Class 7 student of the Shardashram School, Dadar, hung himself in the school toilet, a curious class 5 student of the same school asked his teacher on Tuesday, “If I do the same thing then I will also get so much publicity?”
While the stumped teacher was left struggling for an answer, the question has rung alarm bells on the impact of the exposure to such drastic acts on children. “The fact that these children committed suicide one after another and by using the similar violent method makes me wonder whether these are copy-cat suicides,” said Dr Shubangi Parkar, who heads the psychiatry department at KEM Hospital. “When one person does something, others in a similar situation tend to follow without thinking. We have to keep a close watch for the next few days.”
The Dadar school said that it plans to address students’ questions on the death of Sushant Patil, 12, and other anxiety-provoking issues as part of a long-term strategy. “We don’t want to draw attention to it right now. We would rather maintain normalcy than dwell on the incident,” said Srinivas Nerulkar a school trustee.
The fifth floor bathroom where Patil hung himself with a nylon rope has been sealed and students have been asked to use other bathrooms. Students said that the school had not made a mention of Patil’s suicide.
The silence on the suicide is part of a strategy to first equip teachers and parents before speaking to students, said Nerulkar. “Teachers and parents need to be counselled on how to handle this,” he added. The school is also talking to doctors to set up counselling sessions.
Other schools have already begun addressing the issue. Billabong International School at Malad has organised a counselling session for students on Wednesday. “The school counsellor will answer students’ queries on the recent suicides or any other issue,” a school spokesperson said.
The spate of recent student suicides has also got parents worried. “My daughter told me that the Dadar student committed suicide after watching the film, ‘3 Idiots’. When children are exposed to so many things on television or the internet you don’t know how they might get influenced,” said Bhoomika Rambhiya, whose daughter studies in Class 8 at Sharon English School, Mulund.
The All India Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations is planning to take up the issue of mandatory counselling slots in the school timetables.