UGC urges universities to educate students on mental health helpline

Since its inception in 2022, approximately over one lakh calls have been recorded under this age group.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only(Express Illustrations | Soumyadip Sinha)

BENGALURU : With students taking the extreme step under academic pressure, the University Grants Commission (UGC) earlier this month directed all higher educational institutions (HEIs) to widely publicise the free mental health helpline number available 24/7 for the benefit of those in need of help.

Data accessed by TNSE from the Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking with States (Tele MANAS) programme revealed that an average of 9,000 calls are recorded every month from individuals in the age group of 15 to 30 years. Since its inception in 2022, approximately over one lakh calls have been recorded under this age group.

Developed in collaboration with NIMHANS and the International Institute of Information and Technology Bangalore (IIIT-B) to enable the national-level launch of the helpline, most calls from youngsters are about developmental problems, issues in schools, exam and performance pressure, parental reaction and possible failures. Some also complain of sleep disturbance and insomnia.

Welcoming the UGC directive, Dr Naveen Kumar C, Professor of Psychiatry and Head of Community Psychiatry, NIMHANS, said, “Given the prevalence of younger callers, particularly students and young professionals, it becomes imperative to address the mental health needs of this demographic. Educational institutions serve as strategic platforms for outreach because of the considerable time students spend there.” He added that this demographic is also relatively well-educated, making them effective advocates for mental health awareness within their communities.

On how the data is recorded and accessed, TK Srikanth, Convener, E-health Research Centre, IIIT-B, said these numbers are proxies as only those individuals who have chosen to disclose their age and other details are recorded. He added that data shows more males dial the helpline in the above bracket.

With studies showing that suicide is among the fourth leading cause of death among late adolescent groups, he emphasised the role of educational institutions in addressing this problem. Karnataka has recorded 48,731 calls to date and with more awareness campaigns, the Tele-MANAS portal is capable of handling five to six times more calls, said the team.

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