Why do students commit suicide? What does a distressed student need? One simple straight forward answer is counselling. Take the case of the recent suicide of a Kashmiri student at the English and Foreign Languages University (Eflu). Though the issue is mired in controversy, it’s apparent that he did not have a sympathetic shoulder to cry on — which begs the question as to why Eflu doesn’t have a counsellor.
Vice-Chancellor Prof Sunaina Singh’s spokesperson told City Express, “We are going to have a fully functional psychological counselling centre in the coming weeks. The health advisory committee is looking at developing a centre along the lines of IIT Kanpur with some clinical psychologists and professionals for full-time service.” Asked about the delay, he replied, “We had identified the need for a counselling centre a couple of years ago, but it could not take shape since there was no regular Vice-Chancellor then.”
The University of Hyderabad has a counsellor as does the Osmania University. Eflu students too want a counsellor.
“As students of this university, we face a lot of stress, depression and harassment. With congested and overcrowded hostels, there is no congenial atmosphere for studies. Uncertainties and indecisiveness of the administration is the cause of all problems,” said Tahir Jamal, an MA student. With about 60% foreign students on the campus, Seetaramulu, a PhD scholar, pointed out, Eflu is a cultural shock for many who come from villages. “Students here require a lot of support.” On the other hand, Mohammed Shareef, another PhD scholar, opines, “if the administration was concerned about students, many of the issues would not have happened. There is a huge gap between administration and students and they are not student-friendly.”
OU gives Eflu boys Sahayam
G Angela David, full-time counsellor, Sahayam Psychological Counselling Centre at the Osmania University, is well experienced in helping students. The centre was set up at the University College of Science in 2009 after several students resorted to suicide in the wake of the Telangana agitation. It works from Monday to Friday between 10 am and 4 pm and has had some success in preventing suicides on the campus in the last couple of years.
“A psychologically affected person is vulnerable at any given point of time. We should not take any such case casually. We have prevented about 2-3 suicides in last couple of years,” said Angela. According to her, many students from the nearby Eflu have also sought help from OU’s counseling centre! “We focus on general psychological issues of both students and staff. They come usually with issues like inability to concentrate and adjust to the new surroundings, relationship issues etc.,” she explained Angela. Most of the students, especially from rural areas, develop fear, restlessness and anxiety. “Anybody can have psychological issues and about 4-5 sittings of one-and-a half-hour each should help,” she believes.Sahayam gets about 5-6 cases a week and the service is free. According to her, teachers need to be sensitive enough to identify students with suicidal tendencies.
They just need someone to listen to them
“They just need somebody to listen to them without judging them. We assure trust and confidentiality. If the problem is beyond our control, we refer them to our psychiatrist, especially in the case of severe depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. We help them with some yoga, goal setting, nutrition, outdoor games and meditation to beat mental stress,” explained Angela.
Recalling an incident wherein a student was saved by his friend after he had climbed on a table to hang himself, she said, “his room-mate was already suspicious about him. The boy was a class topper and had isolated himself due to depression.” According to her, students with suicidal tendencies give behavioural, verbal and situational clues.
Referring to another incident, she said it was a classic case of apathy on the part of fellow students and teachers. “A girl committed suicide last year. Her body had many marks, but she used to give some excuses to friends. After she committed suicide, it was understood that she had suicidal tendencies and had many times cut herself.” Adding more, she said boys come forward for psychological help. “But girls usually hesitate to come out to us. In fact, girls can have worse and deeper psychological issues.”