Wake up to the enormity of student suicides in India
Even as counselling centres are becoming the norm in institutes such as the IITs, centres with resident psychologists who can intervene at the onset of mental problems — which often coincide with the physical and psychological changes that an adolescent or teenager experiences — are yet to become commonplace.editorials Updated: Jan 05, 2018 19:24 IST
Between 2011 and 2016, 49,249 students in India have killed themselves. Statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that 6,654 students committed suicide in 2012; 8,423 in 2013; 8,068 in 2014; and 8,934 in 2015. The number spiked to 9,474 in 2016, says NCRB data shared by the ministry of home affairs in Parliament last week.
A cocktail of enormous parental expectations, ragging and the inability to cope with a new environment are among the factors that tip students over the edge. But what’s sometimes ignored is that students often nurse mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression which can trigger suicidal thoughts. Last week, speaking at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, President Ram Nath Kovind said India was looking at a possible mental health epidemic. Quoting a study, Mr Kovind said what was alarming was that mental health problems were also affecting the young, who were in the prime of their lives. “It [the study] says that 10% of Indians have one or more mental health problem in a nation of 1.3 billion people... If you put it in context, the number of Indians suffering from mental health problem is larger than the population of Japan,” said the President.
The country’s leading academic institutions often fail to realise the link between suicidal thoughts and mental illness. Even as counselling centres are becoming the norm in institutes such as the IITs, centres with resident psychologists who can intervene at the onset of mental problems — which often coincide with the physical and psychological changes that an adolescent or teenager experiences — are yet to become commonplace. Such mechanisms are almost non-existent at smaller institutes in the country’s tier-2 and tier-3 cities.
In 2017, the ministry of human resource development instructed all Indian Institutes of Technology to evolve induction programmes to help soothe students. Along with counselling at schools and colleges, the State must also bolster the infrastructure of helplines that promise anonymity and instant redress of a teenage student’s anxieties.