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Student Suicides in India: Risk factors and Prevention

Context:

The increasing number of student suicide cases in India necessitates to see how this delinquent issue can be addressed

Student Suicides in India- Statistics

  • According to a 2012 Lancet Report, India has one of the world’s highest suicide rates for youth aged 15 to 29
  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2014 and 2016, 26,476 students committed suicide in India
  • According to the data (Jan 2018) sent to the Home ministry by all states and UTs,  9,474 students committed suicide in 2016- at a rate of more than one per hour.
  • Maharashtra and West Bengal recorded the most number of suicides among students; while, Lakshadweep recorded none.

Risk factors

Suicides are a not just a result of psychological or emotional factors but has social dimensions too (Emily Durkheim).

  1. Examination Centric Education:Examinationcentric education, equating academic excellence with marks, pressure of studies and performance arecritical factors in students’ suicides in India. According to NCRB, 7,462 committed suicide due to failure in various examinations between 2014 and 2016
  2. Career expectations and pressure: Career aspirations and pressure to achieve those have taken a toll on young minds. However, the education system has not been successful in generating enough job options, putting pressure on student to perform or perish.
  3. Forced career choices: Many students succumb to veryhigh amount of pressure, especially from their family andteachers in terms of their career choices and studies.
  4. Lack of support from Educational Institutions:most of the educational institutions in India are not equipped with tackling mental health issues of children and adolescents and lack centres and trained human resource for guidance and counselling.
  5. Ragging and Bullying: Ragging and bullying and consequent degradation of individual student’s dignity has been a major risk factor in Indian higher educational institutions. Cyber bullying also results in low self-esteemeventually leading to several other such as depression and other mental disorders.
  6. Discrimination:Caste-based discrimination, racism, sexism, and classism often lead to low-self-esteem and act as a driving factor to depression and consequent suicide.
  7. Financial stress: The steep cost of preparatory courses and tertiary education acts as a burden on the students and put tremendous pressure on them.
  8. Changing family structures:Changing family structures, with smaller, nuclear families becoming the norm and the near disappearance of joint or extended families have resulted in reduction in support system and increased loneliness among children and adolescents.
  9. Emotional Neglect: Emotional neglect, childhood trauma and abuse is a major risk factor for suicidal ideation among teenagers.
  10. Societal apathy: Society’s callous and indifferent behaviour towards mental health conditions, stigma, humiliation and discrimination often aggravates conditions of obsessive anxiety, depression and mental disorders among youth.
  11. Undetected psychiatric disorders: most students who take the extreme step of ending their life have undetected psychiatric conditions. Conditions remain undetected due to lack of communication by students with teachers, parents or mentors and lack of awareness.

Interventions

  1. Mental Healthcare Act, 2017:The Act seeks to ensure rights of the person with mental illness to receive care and to live a life with dignity.
  2. Anti- Ragging Measures:
  • The SupremeCourt of India makes it mandatory for academic institutionsto file official F.I.R (with thepolice in any instance of a complaint of ragging.
  • University Grants Commission (UGC)passed UGC Regulation on curbing the Menace of Ragging
    in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009. It lays down stringent measures and proactive steps to curb ragging.
  1. Student Counselling System:
  • The University Grants Commission in 2016 hasasked all universities to set up a “students counselling
    system” to deal with all sorts of problems that the studentsmight face such as anxiety, stress, fear of failure,homesickness and other academic troubles.
  • The framework for implementation of the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) recognises the role of guidance and counselling services to students.

Note:Integrated Scheme on School Education has been introduced in 2018 by subsuming SarvaShikshaAbhiyan (SSA), RashtriyaMadhyamikShikshaAbhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education (TE)

  1. Gatekeeper’s Training for Suicide Prevention by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences): It is a program to build a network of “gatekeepers” and equip them with the knowledge and skills to identify and provide timely help to suicidal persons.
Best Practice:Delhi’s Happiness Curriculum:
• The ‘Happiness Curriculum’ launched by the Delhi government focuses on holistic education by including meditation, value education, and mental exercises in conventional education curriculum.
• the entire curriculum is activity-based and no formal examinations is conducted on it
• A periodic assessment of children’s progress take place from time to time using a happiness index

 

Steps to be taken

  1. The government should clearly commit to tackle the growing menace of suicides among Indian youth. The government must undertakea comprehensive study on the reasons behind suicides and formulate a national suicide prevention strategy with special focus on children and adolescents
  2. It is important to revamp the exam-centric education system in India. The curriculum should be designed in ways that stress the importance of mental exercises and meditation.
  3. Training teachers as gatekeepers and innovative methods of examination should be adopted to mitigate risk factors of suicides.
  4. Students needs to be appreciated and it is important to change how Indian society perceives education. It should be a celebration of efforts and not marks.
  5. Equal Opportunity Cells with an anti-discrimination officershould be made functional in universities and colleges.
  6. Effective counselling centres should be set up in all schools and colleges to address student’s anxieties, depression and other mental health issues.
  7. All the stakeholders – teachers, educators, parents, student counsellors and peer groups, must build networks of solidarity and communication to help each other.

Summary

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2014 and 2016, 26,476 students committed suicide in India

Reasons

  • Examination Centric Education
  • Career expectations and pressure
  • Forced career choices
  • Lack of support from Educational Institutions
  • Ragging and Bullying
  • Caste-based discrimination, racism, and sexism
  • Financial stress
  • Changing family structures
  • Emotional Neglect
  • Societal apathy
  • Undetected psychiatric disorders

Steps taken

  • Mental Healthcare Act, 2017
  • Anti- Ragging Measures:
  • Student Counselling System:
  • Gatekeeper’s Training for Suicide Prevention by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences

Steps to be taken

  • a comprehensive study on the reasons behind suicides and formulate a national suicide prevention strategy
  • revamp the exam-centric education system
  • Training teachers as gatekeepers
  • Equal Opportunity Cells with an anti-discrimination officershould be made functional in universities and colleges.
  • Effective counselling centresshould be set up in all schools and colleges

Best Practices

Delhi’s Happiness Curriculum: It focuses on holistic education by including meditation, value education, and mental exercises in conventional education curriculum.

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