Dr Bharat Singh Shekhawat, Senior Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, Government Medical College and Hospital in Kota, says suicidal thoughts are due to biological reasons and just counselling the students does not help.
How do you look at the steps taken by district administrations and coaching institutes to stop student suicides?
Whenever they feel a student is stressed, they try and divert their attention —they write to the parents, call spiritual leaders or organize yoga events to calm the minds of the students. But I don’t think these things work. Suicide is not a sudden impulse; it’s the last straw when a student gives up. It’s an illness.
What measures do you think should be taken?
We have run programmes to train the staff of these institutes who deal with students. But there should be a multi-directional approach. You need to have qualified and experienced professionals to deal with students; you have to have a specialist. Just as the institutes recruit the best faculty to get the best results in competitive exams, the equal focus should also be given to the mental well-being of the students.
What should be the line of action?
In psychiatry, there are various screening tools available in the form of a questionnaire that gives a preliminary indication of all kinds of mental disorders. Students should be screened (for mental strength) at the time of admission and a vulnerable student should be identified at that level itself. But nothing is being done at the core level.
To make money, the institutes give admission to every aspirant without assessing their mental stamina…
It’s not right to admit every student. Everyone is not cut out for IIT. Parents and institutes must realise this. But the institutes don’t tell the truth to the parents or the students and instead sell big dreams to them at the time of admission. After admissions, they prepare only the students with the best potential in specialised batches. The focus is on success and money.
Why does a student commit suicide? Do you think employing counsellors by the institutes will help?
Children come here at an adolescent age and are immature. Their parents force them to come here. They feel trapped in the system and try to find an escape route. They are not able to cope with stress, distress and depression. Counselling is effective for minor problems, not to overcome suicidal thoughts. Suicide has a biological reason. Suicidal thoughts occur when there are neurochemical disturbances in the brain. Medical help is a must, mere counselling will not work.