HYDERABAD: A few weeks before he attempted suicide, Jakkula Anjith from Karimnagar had gone through the first phase of counselling for engineering and had earnestly requested the management of the junior college to release his certificates that were withheld till he cleared the pending fees. Another student studying in IIIT Basara ended his life due to personal problems.
These were among the over 3,600 students who died by suicide in Telangana from 2014-2021, data collated from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show. As many as 567 students took their own life in 2021 alone.
Hakku Initiative, a platform that works on solutions with citizens and governments on behalf of the Institute of Perception Studies, collected data of students who died by suicide after the formation of the State from the Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report published by the NCRB.
The ADSI report reveals that only a small percentage of the suicides in the State was due to failure in examination. For instance, 51 students died due to this reason in 2021. “Increased fees, poor infrastructure, and the fear of unemployment add to their stress,” felt Kota Neelima, a volunteer at Hakku.
Living conditions and financial problems may lead to stress, but not having a space to talk about their emotions and anxieties often pushes the youngsters to depression.“I once wrote in my 2nd grade in my diary that one day I would like to jump off the roof of my apartment and die. Guess what I got for that? Scoldings from my teacher and beating from my parents (sic)”, a 23-year-old engineering student-cum-YouTuber, who died by suicide in Saifabad, wrote on his social media account.
“I never knew that my son was struggling so much,” said his teary-eyed father. “I got to know about his YouTube channel only after his death. He was not attending college, and never participated in poojas and functions at home. If I would have known about his depression I would have taken immediate steps to remove the communication gap between us,’’ he added. He was expecting his son to become a successful businessman.
Mental health issues among children often remain undiagnosed. An alarming proportion of young people suffer from anxiety and depression. However, most of them don’t know whom to approach and what help to get. Students these days suffer a lot due to peer pressure. It could be fitting into a particular group in school, studies or put on them through social media.
“Usually, the frontal lobe of the brain is not well developed among teenagers leading to a lack of decision-making capacity. Children have high impulsivity and aggressiveness, especially during their teenage years. At the same time, the stress of study, peer pressure and unstable relationships with parents, friends and love affairs culminate in anxiety,” explains Dr M Hrishikesh Giriprasad, associate professor at the Department of Child Psychiatry, Niloufer Hospital.
In the last 8-10 years, stress among adolescents has increased due to the study pattern, family issues and the easy availability of intoxicants. Comorbid conditions such as family conflicts, and criminality history also play a role, Dr Giriprasad observed.
Notably, the NCRB data of eight years shows more male students have died by suicide. “By and large, more males die by suicide than females. Boys or men happen to do that because they use more violent means,” opines Dr Anand Narayan, psychologist and volunteer at Roshni Counselling Centre. Impulsivity is higher among males. Suicide is generally a very spontaneous reaction to a situation and it usually results from some extreme disappointment, he added.
Overall, India reported the highest suicide rate in 2021 in history. Experts opine that a lot of cases are still underreported. Even though Maharashtra reports the highest number of suicides, developed states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana don’t lag far behind.“There are more avenues and aspirations open in developed states. When there is a higher standard of living around students, the pressure to earn also increases,” Dr Anand explained.
Due to it being a taboo subject, mental health is not treated as emphatically as physical health. “We do not have enough mental health professionals. At the same time, there is non-availability of anyone who can provide emotional support,” said Dr Anand.
A teacher, a friend or a relative can also be a counsellor as long as they are prepared to listen to those who are going through a difficult time. In a country where there is a scarcity of counsellors in private and educational institutions, each one of us has to play a role.
People struggling with depression and feeling suicidal can call Roshani Helpline Nos. 81420 20033 or 81420 20044 from 11 am to 9 pm on all days and get free and confidential support