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IITs launch war on student suicides

Jan 14 2013, 13:41 IST
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SummaryTask force report in; resolve to improve counselling to check suicidal tendency

Its decision to hike tuition fee by 80 per cent got the most attention but the meeting of the IIT Council held last week also addressed a grave issue: all IITs agreed to put in extra effort to check suicide and suicidal tendencies among their students.

The council accepted the report of the task force constituted to prevent suicides and promote wellness in the Centrally Funded Technical Institutions — such as IITs, NITs — and resolved to improve counselling and hand-holding of new students. They have every reason to: the report, accessed by The Indian Express, reveals that in such institutions, 18 students attempted and 12 committed suicide in the past two years. Seven of the 12 belonged to SC, ST or OBC.

The report notes that the reasons for the suicides were quite complex, not uni-dimensional; they ranged from relationship issues, personal problems, mental stress, family problems, and in one case, multiple factors such as poor results, personal issues and inability to cope with teaching methods.

Most suicides, the report adds, were not linked to a particular period such as examinations, results, thesis submission, soon after admission or at the time of placement.

It, however, notes that a new IIT student is particularly vulnerable to suicidal thoughts: most new entrants adjust to the pressures of IIT within the first 3 to 6 months but there is a fraction of students that gets stuck in a vicious loop of missing classes, poor performance, inability to share, loneliness, stress, depression and relationship issues. A very small percentage may also have a history of illness and may resort to self-harm when they experience the first setbacks in academic or personal relationships.

The report suggests a four-level action plan to check suicides at CFTIs. One, if a student attempts suicide, he should immediately be provided medical help and his confidentiality, privacy and dignity guarded.

Two, the student should be counselled daily for at least a week and watched, with his consent, by peers and volunteers. If necessary, he should be shifted out of his hostel room and put under the supervision of a parent or guardian. His close friends and peers who may be traumatised by the incident should also be counselled.

New students should be taken special care of; the first fortnight of the session should focus on building their social, communication and interpersonal skills to encourage self-esteem, emotion management, problem solving and

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