In January, May and April this year, the faculty and students at IIT Kharagpur were faced with some really tragic news. On May 5, a fourth-year Aerospace engineering student at IIT-Kharagpur was found hanging in his hostel room. The reason for Kerala native Nipin N taking the step had been attributed to depression.
This incident was enough to send a jolt through the premier institute as only in April had the campus heard news of the suicide of Sana Shreeraj, a third year student of electrical engineering. Shreeraj, 20, belonged to Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh and stayed at Lala Lajpat Roy hostel in the campus. While police attribute the death to mental pressure, his father had alleged that his college mates had mentally tortured him and drove him to take the extreme step. Shreeraj took his life by lying down on the train track, his severed head had been found at the site.
On January 16, Lokesh Meena from Rajasthan jumped on the tracks and was hit by a train at Jakpur station.
These might be this year’s statistics from IIT Kharagpur, but other IITs in the country and engineering colleges, Kota coaching centres are contributing to the list at an alarming rate. Often investigation into the suicides of these students throw up some worrying reasons – unable to cope with mental pressure, depression, mental torture, sexual harassment etc.
When these stories come to light questions arise as to why college authorities are not doing anything, why is there so much pressure? Why something was not done to prevent this?
According to a report in Hindustan Times, IIT Kharagpur has now started switching off lights for an hour in the hostel every evening. The intention behind it is no power cut but to get the students to mingle more with each other.
The college authorities observed that due to hectic schedules and life online, students had reduced interaction with their peers and so no one knows about what is going on with the other person. In that atmosphere of tension and anxiety these black out hours are giving the students an opportunity to interact, discuss what is going in, share their thoughts on the recent deaths and basically understand what the mood is in the hostel corridors.
Mental pressure from peers, from parents, from society often troubles these excellent minds who get into such reputable institutions.
As students, all of us are in this rat race to compete, to better the other. Neither are we satisfied with our results and nor does the aspiration for more end. Our education system is enough to see that we keep chasing after the carrot but what do we want? As a 20-year-old student,do we actually think that no first rank means the end of the road for us?
Getting into an IIT is a matter of prestige and once in, if a student is unable to perform with high marks then the student gets anxious, depressed that he/she is not doing justice to their role and often ends up taking the drastic step. Parents are always worried about placements and future salary package and it further increases student anxiety.
The feeling of shame, compounded with helplessness or even a low-income background, etc also force some students to take such tragic steps. Sitting cooped up in a room, with no friends to share their anxieties with, or the fear of being judged by their college mates or professors, drives many students to keep mum and finally after days of keeping everything bottled in, the students decide death is the easiest way out.
Now with more interaction, it is possible they begin to share their feelings, seeing how others are coping with student life and academic pressure, those who may be feeling depressed or entertaining suicidal thoughts could find a release.
Research has proved that in-person communication from friends or trusted adults is the preferred means for raising concerns about a student’s signs of depression.
With terms like counselling and psychiatrist coming into the picture, often the stigma of having a mental weakness or being judged comes in the way and many like to keep quiet. But when it comes to interaction with friends, there is hope for some headway and drop in such suicide cases.
Already, students at the institute have reported feeling a difference. Some said that while initially it seemed ‘forced’, this interaction is benefitting them, enabling them to talk about things they never used to do on a regular basis. It also helps take the pressure off. Students need to be reminded that scorecards are not the be all and end all of life. There's more to life than first ranks and fat pay packages. A little perspective can help change a lot of our mental blocks.