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Friday, June 3, 2011

23 - 1st January 2007 - IIT suicide boy was not on ‘troubled’ list

‘Mentors’ at the institute, who are supposed to identify disturbed students, had failed to mention him in the list of 10 students prepared by them

Aditi Sharma
         
Posted On Monday, January 01, 2007 at 02:38:22 AM

IIT Bombay student Srikanth Mallepula, 21, who hanged himself in his hostel room on Saturday, was not on the list of 10 students identified this year as 'troubled and disturbed' by the 'mentor system' established by the institution to recognise students who may be prone to committing suicide.

IIT has 30 mentors, picked from among students themselves, spread across various faculties between the second and fourth year. They identify students who are emotionally unstable on the basis of their behaviour as well as academic performance. Once the students are identified, they are tackled by the mentors depending on their seniority. If the mentors are unable to handle them, faculty members and even parents are brought into the picture. Chronic cases are referred to professional counsellors.

The system, started a few years ago, was intensified last year after Vijay Nukala, a final-year student, committed suicide on the campus apparently as a result of academic pressure.

However, the system did not deliver in Srikanth's case, a fellow student who did not wish to be named said. "Srikanth's points on the cumulative performance index were very low. He also had a backlog since his second semester and had not performed too well in his CAT exams. These were adequate indications for the mentor group or any other support group to identify him as troubled and help him out," the student said.

Ashok Misra, director, IIT Bombay, acknowledged it was a "worrying sign" that the mentor system could not identify Srikanth as someone who needed help. Misra said, "It is cause for concern that the mentors could not identify the student. We will now look at improving the mentoring system."


The mentor group defended itself saying Srikanth did not exhibit any telltale signs of stress or depression. "He wasn't a recluse or an introvert. He was very popular with his wing mates and batch mates. There was no way we could have spotted him on our radar," said one of the mentors who did not wish to be named. Some of Srikanth's batch mates who were with him in the hours before he committed suicide concur, saying he seemed 'normal' that day. "Until about 12 noon he was with us -- happy and making everybody around him smile. In fact, a night before he committed suicide he even went for the Mood I Live Wire concert," said a batch mate. One of Srikanth's friends said the sheer number of students on campus probably posed a problem for mentors. "The number of mentors ought to be increased if they want to make a difference," he said.

Meanwhile, people who knew Srikanth well can't get over the shock of his suicide. He loved animated films, was very popular because of his movie collection that he posted on his server at IIT and loved his computer and gadgets. Srikanth, better known as Srilu, hailed from Hyderabad.


Psychiatrist speak
Dr Bharat Shah, president of Bombay Psychiatrist Association said Srikanth's seems a case of premeditated suicide. "From what we know till now, he must have made up his mind to commit suicide. He did not want anyone to know about his intentions. It is not uncommon for such people to mingle with friends and have fun. This explains why he even participated in the college festivities," said Dr Shah. He added that many with suicidal tendencies are able to hide their grief and smile through life.