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Red Alert — Rising cases of student suicides sound alarm bells across India

By HT Brand Studio | May 05, 2017

In India, exam stress is one of the leading causes behind depression and suicide in teenagers. Let's pre-act before the next headline. Talk to your children today. #JaagoRe

Alarm Bajne Se Pehle, Jaago Re

The horrific trend indicates the presence of several deep-rooted problems in society, with study-related stress and burden of family expectations being among the chief factors.

Student life in popular culture is often envisioned as a happy-go-lucky period, devoid of the worries and responsibilities that define adulthood. In India, however, this assumption couldn't be farther from the truth. Students have consistently faced tremendous pressure in this country, where the opportunities are limited, the competition fierce, and where futures are determined by mark sheets. To make matters worse, Indian families are known to set incredibly high expectations when it comes to academic results, which further intensifies the burden on students.

SOURCE: Hindustan Times

Unfortunately, not everyone emerges from this nightmare with flying colours.

Statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveal that close to 40,000 students in India committed suicide from 2011¬ to 2015, with 8,934 cases in 2015 alone. Another report from 2012 discloses that India's suicide rates for people between 15 and 29 years, are among the highest in the world. This is even more significant when you consider that with suicide being illegal, several cases are hushed up as accidents or left unreported.

For a typical class-XII student, stress levels run especially high as scores from board exams and the various entrance tests that follow determine not only college placements but also their careers—a fact that parents cannot drive home enough. And with no respite either at home or among peers, a student is often forced to consider irreversible measures.

The year 2017 alone has thrown up several cases across the country, where exam-related stress has caused a student to take the extreme step. One major concentration of this unfortunate epidemic is in Kota, Rajasthan – India's coaching hub where, according to estimates, over 1.75 lakh aspirants gather annually to battle for limited seats in the country's most prestigious colleges. The most recent casualty, a 16-year-old from West Bengal, committed suicide allegedly after failing to clear the IIT-JEE- Mains this April. Earlier in January, the same step was taken by a 19-year-old medical-school aspirant from Himachal Pradesh, who, like many others, had made their way to the town with dreams of a brighter future.

SOURCE: Hindustan Times

In the past six years, Kota has seen over 60 student suicides, with a majority of them attributed to exam failures. In a video message recovered after his death last year, Aman Kumar Gupta, a student from Bihar, apologized to his parents for not being able to live up to their expectations. "Everyone at the coaching institute and my friends helped me but I am not been able to do it right," he said in the 11.14 minute long video clip.

Even outside Kota, the alarm bells have been ringing for years now. Students from regions as diverse as Phagwara, Udupi, Noida, and Mumbai have all taken their lives within these first five months of 2017, due to study-related stress and burden of family expectations. In the most recent case, 24-year-old management student Arjun Bhardwaj, streamed his suicide as a 'live tutorial' on Facebook before jumping to his death from a Mumbai hotel. The student's father reportedly told the police that his son was depressed "due to repeated failure in exams".

SOURCE: Hindustan Times

Of late, the unsettling frequency of suicides has also drawn the attention of administrators and celebrities alike, while even reputed universities are talking of changing their curriculum. Earlier this year, PM Narendra Modi urged students undergoing depression to seek help, during his radio speech. The thought has since been echoed by Bollywood actors Anupam Kher and Akshay Kumar as well, both urging youngsters to speak up and look for other ways out.

That India urgently needs to start prioritising mental health goes without saying: Currently, only 0.06% of our national health budget is dedicated to it, along there is 87% nationwide shortage in mental-health professionals. On ground, this means that a majority of schools, universities, and institutions lack trained staff for counselling students caught on the brink of despair.

From a national perspective, student suicides glaringly highlight our failure to protect and nurture our young and call for a critical review of the education system and social structures. As adults, parents, teachers, and leaders, safeguarding the interests of our students is a responsibility we bear collectively. And the fact that more and more children are driven to suicide instead of seeking help indicates that we are failing this duty, over and over again.

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