We all know that change is the only constant in this world, and that these days, every smallest thing around us is not what it was even two years back. I leave it to you to decide if it is for the good or bad; yet, have you noticed, just as words and slangs language have changed, are we also not coming across words like ‘stress’, ‘tension’ and ‘depression’ way too often, these days? Aren’t they linked to cases of suicide attempts and suicides which, especially among students, are increasing? 

While I kept thinking about this, one news item caught my attention. A reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query revealed that 27 students across 10 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have committed suicide in the last five years. However, the reasons behind the suicides were not revealed.  

Deciding that talking to a psychiatrist would help understand the solutions better, I contacted Dr K Lakshmi, District Psychiatrist, District Mental Health Programme, Chennai. 

Excerpts from the interview: 

How can students handle academic pressure, especially in higher educational institutions? 

College is very different from school and students should be prepared well in advance in terms of what they can expect. Adapting to new people, new environment and a new education system will take time. Apart from this, there is also the academic pressure to perform well. Parents and students should understand that it will take 3 to 6 months for the student to settle down well. This time duration is dependent on the coping skills of the student.

How can students handle tough situations in college life? 

Parents have to sensitise their wards about what they are likely to face in the educational institutions and surroundings. Parenting plays a major role here. Wards who have been outwardly pampered will find it difficult to adjust to new surroundings. 

We, as a community, should understand that intelligence and skill set are independent of each other. Problem solving is a great skill which we should nurture in students, as it is this skill which will help them deal with different situations in college.

What are the symptoms to watch out for in students who are struggling to cope? 

There will be behavioural issues. Phone addiction is another symptom to watch out for. Such people will prefer to be lonely. A lot of negative words will emerge in their conversation. They will exhibit characteristics of hopelessness, worthlessness and helplessness. 

How can family and friends help in case students are finding it difficult to handle life situations? 

Parents should understand from the very beginning that their children follow their lifestyle, their footsteps and their character too! Parents and now in most cases, grandparents should help youngsters understand that they are open and ready to talk and help out. Simultaneously, students must also be made to understand the importance of loving and sharing. Homes in which there is no one to guide children are breeding grounds for students with low self-esteem and weak problem-solving skills. Even when both parents are working, they must ensure that they spend quality time with their wards.  

Dr Lakshmi also shared her words of wisdom for the parents. 

“Parents should not compare their wards with others. They should not enforce their thoughts and views on their children. Unnecessary pressure yields no results. It is extremely important to keep their eyes and ears open for their wards’ thoughts, words and deeds,” she said.

A student (who wished not to be named) from a premier institute revealed a totally different perspective. “One spends three to five years preparing to get admitted into a premier institution. That would be his or her dream destination. How can he leave something which he has worked so hard for? More so, how can one be so emotionally weak that one decides to take their life? One has to understand that nothing comes easy,” the student said. 

Adithya Geethan, a first-year undergraduate student and an accomplished cricketer says, “I think it is something the institutions and the dead student’s friends and family should be ashamed of. Students commit suicide due to either academic pressure or due to issues in personal life; I feel it is mostly the latter. We students are taught many subjects and languages, but not all-important life skills. When teachers become friends, life becomes easier for the student.”

Geethan adds that the greatest trick to manage academic pressure is to nurture a keen desire to learn, focus on the subject and lastly, master time management. 

Madhuri Khedkar, a teacher and a mother of two says, “Our system has many flaws and that is the prime reason for student suicides. Children are overprotected and they turn out to be emotionally dependent on others. Communication with parents and other members of the family is missing. This again is a major issue. In most cases, no one is there at home to take care of the emotional aspect of the children. The bond that used to be there between students and teachers in earlier days is almost non-existent now. Things going on mechanically is the reason for student suicides.” 

Ms Khedkar adds that getting involved in the rat race is not as important as getting knowledge is. “Every child has its own capacity and that has to be respected and nurtured,” she says. 

True that.

Preetha Kadhir

Preetha Kadhir is a Journalist with 15+ years of exp in national and international newspapers. She has penned rhymes for children and loves writing about education, parenting and societal issues.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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