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Opinion: Prevent students’ suicide now

www.telanganatoday.com | September 3, 2023

Inculcating courses for problem-solving from a primary grade could teach children how to deal with challenges in life

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) considers an attempt to suicide as a punishable offence. The National Crime Records Bureau, 2021, recorded nearly 1,64,000 deaths by suicide in India. Maharashtra saw the maximum suicide rates, closely followed by Tamil Nadu (Rathore, 2023).

As compared with China, which has a population of only a few lakhs less than India, it is astonishing to see India having double the number of suicide rates. China records 6 individuals dying by suicide every 1,00,000 people each year, whereas in India, this number is 12 (Prachi Salve, 2022; Writer, 2023). Don’t these make us question why suicide rates are so high and what makes people gather the courage to harm themselves?

Terrifying Data

A study conducted in New Delhi suggests that age groups 15-29 are most susceptible to committing suicide (Press, 2012). India is known to have the maximum number of youth globally. Why is it that our youth, the students, choose to give up their life? Are the challenges they face too challenging? Research on teens who attempted suicide suggests that most actually didn’t want to die. They solely wanted to escape the situation and dying appeared the easier way out (Cammarata, 2023).

Many argue that schools and colleges don’t actually help with real-life problems and teachers don’t bother with the needs of students. As a result, students have to figure out their own way through tough times. The curriculum makes students set certain goals that are challenging to achieve. The inability to achieve these very same goals and match expectations from others may lead to a sense of extreme guilt and isolation. Schools and colleges, therefore, need to start diverting their attention towards students rather than focusing on their own reputation.

While it’s a little hard to pinpoint just one factor that makes students take their lives, we tend to believe that those who do well in school succeed in life and those who don’t are presumed to be rather dumb and incapable of achievements (Sartore, 1976). This too leads to loneliness, isolation and depression which may end in suicide. If we think about it, it is only in school that students get labelled, especially ‘failure’. When children see their parents being disappointed, it lowers their self-esteem. This way schools make the suicidal crisis worse (Sartore, 1976).

The situation in Kota, the coaching hub, is shocking and tragic, to say the least. An article in ‘India Today’ mentions: “5 student suicides in Kota in a month”. The report stated that the students were not receiving adequate counselling for the immense stress they were experiencing in the highly competitive environment. Similar cases can be seen in NEET.

The alarming rate of suicides — 15 students last year and 22 this year already — has made administrations in Kota finally take a step. On August 16, they ordered ‘anti-suicide devices’ on ceiling fans to restrain students from hanging themselves. The spring in the device expands if anything more than 20 kg is hung, thus making it impossible for someone to hang themselves. This method was introduced by the Kota Hostels Association in 2017 too but because hostel owners did not abide by it and it was unpopular at the time, the measure did not succeed (Bureau, 2023). However, this will not help bring down the suicide rates considering the various other methods students might use to perform the act.

Complex Interplay

Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Hospital, in 2021 stated: “Excessive stress of competitive examinations, dejections despite hard work, gross mismatch between large number of aspirants and small number of seats; relationship stress, disturbed lifestyle, family distress; underlying depression, dejection, feelings of insecurity, and feeling threatened — are the reasons that drive students to take the extreme step”.

It is vital for us to understand the complex interplay between these factors on a student’s mental and physical well-being. Early recognition of distress can prevent students from taking extreme steps. Alongside this, providing an open and judgment-free environment void of stigmatisation could further help struggling individuals speak up about their thoughts and share their feelings.

One of the plausible reasons why individuals are more prone to commit suicide is because of the lack of safety/control they feel within their lives. A major factor for this could be the extreme stigmatisation that mental health has been receiving over the past few years. Though awareness is being spread, it is not enough to bring down the rates of suicide and self-harm. It is critical that we de-stigmatise mental illnesses. A person suffering from a mental illness often feels like a burden. The feeling of lack of safety and fear of judgment often take over and prevent one from disclosing their dark thoughts.

While the stressors pointed out by Dr Malhotra are valid, we cannot ignore the impact devices, gadgets and the media have on us. In fact, a 2012 study by Psychiatric Research & Clinical Practice linked increased use of technology to suicide (Twenge, 2020). And evidently, technology has only grown and is growing.

Alcohol dependence and substance issues also contribute to about 20% of all suicide attempts. While withdrawal symptoms can be hard, a cohesive environment could help one cope with the mental symptoms of withdrawal. It is essential to identify someone who is suicidal. Some of the signs could involve oversleeping or sleep deprivation, weight changes resulting from eating too much or too little, avoiding social events or interactions and considering harm to oneself.

Final Thoughts

One of the few methods to help prevent suicide apart from awareness programmes, laws and policies could be inculcating courses for problem-solving and conflict resolution from a primary grade in schools. This could teach children how to deal with challenges and circumstances in life and manage their emotions in these situations. It is an important life skill for the youth today.

Another preventive measure could be mandating regular screening programmes for individuals every few years. Through this, several mental disorders can be identified and worked on. The only limitation of this measure could be that in some cases, the person suffering through a disorder may not actually follow the protocol to seek help. However, if governments could provide the means for their treatment and make it mandatory through persuasion, a few more people might be saved from killing themselves.

Psychologists and counsellors need to be made an imperative part of any school or organisation. Avoiding dependence on any substances, exercising daily, speaking to people and being socially active, eating a healthy diet and sufficient sleep are ways to keep the headspace healthy and steer clear of any self-harming tendencies.

This article has been authored by Prof. Garima Rajan, Faculty of Psychology, FLAME University, and Bhavika Devjani, Undergraduate Student, FLAME University.

(Source:- https://telanganatoday.com/opinion-prevent-students-suicide-now )