By Shweta Sengar
Mumbai: The problem of suicides among Indian students is worsening. In the three years since 2014, as many as 26,476 students have killed themselves in India, according to the latest data sent to the ministry of home affairs by all Indian states and union territories.
The data highlighted that the number for 2016 stood at 9,474—that’s one suicide every 55 minutes.
In May 2017, at least 12 students, including six girls, committed suicide in parts of Madhya Pradesh as they were depressed over their results of class X and XII exams conducted by the state board.
According to police, these suicides were reported from different places in the state, including Satna, Chhatarpur, Guna, Indore, Balaghat, Gwalior, Tikamgarh, Bhind, Jabalpur and Bhopal districts.
In August, a 15-year-old west Bengaluru student’s death was linked to the dangerous online game, Blue Whale Challenge, but it was later found to be otherwise.
Why are students in India killing themselves?
With 26 suicides reported every 24 hours, students in India are killing themselves at an alarming rate. Issues at college and school, drugs and depression over broken families, fights with friends and breakups, can be attributed to the growing fatal trend.
According to the data, Maharashtra and Bengal recorded the most number of suicides, while there was none reported in Lakshadweep.
At 1,350, Maharashtra logged the highest number for 2016, accounting for 14% of the total. West Bengal and Tamil Nadu followed with 1,147 and 981 student suicides respectively.
The Times of India quoted sociologist Samata Deshmane as saying, “Society is transforming, and people are finding it difficult to cope with it, whether it is apparent or otherwise. One of the oldest definitions of our species says that we are social animals, but today we are less social and more individualistic. Apart from things like caste and religion, which also unite people at a superficial level, people are forced to be competitive and worry only about oneself, often depriving several others of a cushion.”
In a 2016 blogpost, YourDost, an online counseling service noted that failure is not the sole reason behind such grim incidents. Forced career choices, fear of failure, and the general stigma attached to mental distress often push students towards the terminal step.
Absence of proper mental healthcare
India has been endeavoring for long to match top-class universities in the world. But in the process, it forgot that such first-class universities pay special attention to the well-being of students, especially mental health.
Most colleges in India are ill-equipped to deal with the crisis. Counselors in schools and colleges often show lack of interest and mostly go with age-old rhetoric like students must not waste the hard-earned money of their parents or that they are privileged students and should not have any such issues at first place.
Issues such as depression and substance abuse take a back seat at educational institutions.
Mental issues are seen in the same light as that of sexuality — a taboo and people habitually turn a blind eye towards such subjects. Moreover, India conveniently refuses to recognize mental and psychosocial issues in the broader discourse.
While there are many schools and universities in the country who have chipped in to deal with the issue. Close to 115 colleges in Pune are opening Wellness Centers for concerned students; IIT-Kharagpur has taken an unusual yet impressive step — purposely turning off the power for an hour encouraging student interaction.
In India where the government spends only 0.06 per cent of its health budget on mental health, according to World Health Organization’s report in 2011, such interventions can go a long way and mark a significant decline in students’ suicide.
By Shweta Sengar