Spending quality time under a tree canopy to learn resilience from nature, indulging in random acts of kindness and practising 31 days of gratitude – this is IIT-Kharagpur’s mantra to help students beat the blues. On an average, counsellors at the premier institute handle 3,000 appointments every year by students who come with varied problems, Prof Sangeeta Das Bhattacharya, faculty in- charge of the Counselling Centre at IIT-KGP, said today.
Till now the counsellors have been able to help over 400 cases of extreme psychological disorders, she said. Extending a helping hand to stressed out students, IIT- Kharagpur has devised a set of outreach programmes to promote positive attitude among students.
“The counselling centre at IIT-KGP has formulated programmes on gratitude, kindness, environment friendliness to promote positive attitude among students and help them before they reach any point of desperation or depression,” Prof Bhattacharya said. The programmes at the centre are being developed by clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, psychological counsellors and spearheaded by Prof Bhattacharya.
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Some of these programmes are part of the curriculum at the Rekhi Centre for Science of Happiness at IIT-KGP. The programme being held in April is ‘Life under Canopy’ which encourages students to locate specific trees around the campus thus helping them to connect with nature, be attentive to surroundings and taking out time to pursue something beyond regular routine or hobby.
“Plants are the biggest example of resilience and this programme is aimed at motivating students to be resilient which is a critical factor in countering depression, anxiety and other mental health issues,” Bhattacharya said. “Spending time with nature is good for the brain. It reduces stress. The Japanese have a word for this Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). This forest bathing programme is already being practised in Japan as part of its National Health Programme,” Bhattacharya said.
’31 days of Gratitude’ programme was conducted in January, while in February it was ’28 Things of Random Act of Kindness’ and for March it was ‘What are you proud of’. Bhattacharya said while incidents of depression among students are being reported by the media and institutional administration questioned, in society there is lacuna in identifying and accepting abnormalities in mental health as just another disease.
The centre has also launched a Facebook page wherein students’ request for assistance is responded to in less than 24 hours. “We have appointed a social worker as well to keep tab on the students visiting us and follow it up with their health status and well-being. We also involve parents and peers in the counselling process,” she said.