Bhaskar Parichha

Parents, educators, and policymakers alike have expressed concern over the increasing number of young lives that are being lost because of this tragic phenomenon.

Student suicide rates in India have a number of causes and consequences that cannot be wished away as a normal part of life. Preventative measures are urgently needed in order to counteract this situation.

Relentless Pressure
Currently, the Indian education system is highly competitive, emphasizing rote learning and performance in examinations. It is evident that the relentless pressure placed on students to excel academically often leads to feelings of inadequacy, stress, and despair on students’ mental health. In India, many parents have high expectations for their children’s success, which places immense pressure on them to achieve top grades and secure a promising future for their children.

There is a danger that this burden can become overwhelming for students, especially if their own dreams and aspirations are overshadowed by it. There has long been a taboo surrounding mental health in India, with limited awareness of the issue as well as limited access to professional help. When students suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, they often suffer in silence, which can exacerbate their distress and increase their risk of trying to commit suicide.

Each and every student suicide represents a lost future, and the potential of talented individuals who could have made a significant contribution to society is extinguished. The devastating impact of student suicides on families cannot be overstated. Parents and loved ones are left grappling with unimaginable grief and guilt, forever haunted by the question of what could have been done differently. Student suicides have far-reaching implications for society and the economy. These tragedies disrupt the educational system, erode trust in institutions, and hinder national progress.

Mental Health
It is crucial to break the silence surrounding mental health issues and promote open discussions about stress, anxiety, and depression among students. Schools and colleges should organize workshops and awareness campaigns to educate students, parents, and teachers about recognizing warning signs and seeking help.

Educational institutions must prioritize students’ well-being by establishing counseling centers and providing access to mental health professionals. Training teachers to identify and address mental health concerns can also play a vital role in early intervention. Shifting the focus from grades and academic achievements to holistic development can alleviate pressure on students. Encouraging extracurricular activities, sports, and skill-building alongside academics can promote a balanced and healthy student life.

Student suicides in India require urgent attention and collective action. By addressing the root causes, raising awareness, and strengthening support systems, we can create an environment that nurtures students’ overall well-being. It is crucial to empower young minds, ensuring their educational journey is marked by hope, resilience, and purpose. Together, let us strive towards a future where students flourish, free from despair.

Grim Scenario
Underscoring the pressure on students to cope with the highly challenging and competitive atmosphere in the country’s top professional colleges is the grim fact that 69 students died by suicide in the past five years in premier institutes such as IITs (31 deaths), NITs (22), AIIMS (13) and IIMs (3), as per data presented in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Of them, 37 were from the reserved category and 32 from the general category; this shows that students from both backgrounds are almost equally affected by stress. Thus, the contention that caste-based discrimination is a key factor for suicides is only partially true. Similarly revealing is the fact that these institutes also account for the highest number of students dropping out: while 8,319 did not complete their courses in the IITs, 5,623 opted out of NITs from 2018 to 2022.

Experts have often pointed out the reluctance of despairing youngsters to admit to their parents — who generally put everything at stake for their education — that they cannot handle the pressure of studying and that it is pushing them to the brink. Then, there is no guarantee that had they opened up, their parents would have stood by them.

Spare a Thought
Even as academic stress, mental health and family issues are among the contributing factors, the statistics cry out for parents to spare a thought for a likely underlying cause: perhaps their wards’ interests lie elsewhere. The initial onus is on them to allow their children to pursue their dreams. This is rather than pushing them to a place that is unbearable for them. In addition, addressing this grave issue at the institutional level is vital as these youth, who race tough exams to enter colleges, are a promising human resource.

(Bhaskar Parichha is a Bhubaneswar based senior journalist and columnist. Views are personal)