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India
23 Jun 2017

Why do so many IITians commit suicide?

During January-April 2017, there were four suicides at the prestigious IITs, three at Kharagpur.

Talking about all education institutions, one student commits suicide every hour in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, but number of attempts is much higher.

With such alarming statistics, something has to be drastically wrong. But IIT-Kharagpur has now come up with innovative methods to help students de-stress.

In context

IITs' attempts to check student suicides
Indian youths aged 15-29 most vulnerable to suicides

Stats

Indian youths aged 15-29 most vulnerable to suicides

Five years ago, according to WHO, Indian youths of both sexes aged 15-29 registered the highest suicides across all demographics: 30-40 of 100,000 youths killed themselves.

'Family problems' were the leading cause; most reported feeling excessive pressurized to achieve 'success', whether in academics or careers.

In fact, in 2013, 2,471 students killed themselves due to "failure in examination", and these are only those reported.

Kota

The IIT journey is a particularly tough one

For aspiring IITians, the battle starts from IIT-JEE. As most media houses celebrated the toppers, not many covered the case of Ajit Pramanick and hundreds of others, who kill themselves after failing to get in.

Kota, the Mecca of IIT aspirants, saw 72 student suicides during 2011-2015.

Once in, there are another four years to go with frequent tests, demanding assignments and intense pressure.

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Blackouts + coffee = De-stressed students

KGP

Blackouts + coffee = De-stressed students

IIT-KGP has now started cutting off electricity for an hour on some evenings, so students are encouraged to leave their rooms, go out and spend time with their peers.

"Students are increasingly meeting less…This small step will help them connect," said Manish Bhattacharya, dean of students affairs.

Starting this session, free tea/coffee vending machines will also be in place.

Steps

'The science of happiness well-being' is now a course

IIT-KGP is also introducing "the science of happiness well-being", a three-credit course, from the next year. They will be run by the institute's Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness.

Parents' role is being recognized; a program has been designed for them to undergo interaction with psychiatric professionals.

The institute has also launched a Facebook page to connect students to counselors.

Hands-on learning vs theory- A 'mismatch' between expectations and reality

Others

Hands-on learning vs theory- A 'mismatch' between expectations and reality

In April, the IIT Council, the institute's highest decision-making body, decided to launch wellness centres to help students maintain better mental health.

A few days later, IIT-Delhi decided to overhaul its curriculum - it decided to bring in more hands-on learning and cut down on theory to make up for the "mismatch between the expectations of the IIT and the students joining it".

Factors

IITians are victims of more than academic pressure

It's not just academic pressure. Caste and gender discrimination are still realities. Many suicides at IITs are of SC/ST students, who are often assimilated poorly into the institute.

Last month, a PhD scholar killed herself allegedly due to pressure for dowry.

There's also a lack of professional help. India has three psychiatrists for a million people, a ratio that even reflects inside the institutes.

So are IIT-KGP's creative way helping?

Yes, say most. "(The blackout) was like an outreach program where the administration wanted to speak to us… Students interacted with each other, even discussing the suicides that had been troubling for many," said Anisha Sharma, a student. Hopefully such measures will be stepped up.

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