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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Why is the first and last resort suicide? - TNN



Ashish Ittyerah Joseph | Nov 25, 2017, 01:00 IST

The suicide of a girl student at an engineering college in Chennai, after she was allegedly caught copying, has brought to the fore the discussion on the burning issue of why our youngsters are not being able to handle pressure and resort to extreme steps the minute they are reprimanded for even the slightest misdemeanour. We speak to a cross-section of people from state educational officials to institutional heads to counsellors on the same. Social media, isolation within one's home, pressure to complete course in stipulated time, helicopter parenting — there seem to be one too many reasons out there for the statistics to show an alarming rise as far as student suicides go. So, what gives? 

Social media, helicopter parenting put pressure on kids 
Of late, on social media, many people always want to post things that project the best in them or their children. That result in putting unrealistic expectations on kids. That's the main problem. Secondly, we aren't teaching our kids how to handle failures in life. Earlier, when we were children, we were taught that the means mattered and not the end. But now, it's vice versa. In this case also, the same thing happened. She wanted to do well in the exam at any cost. Too much of helicopter parenting is another reason for putting unwanted pressure on students. A few years ago, the higher education department had initiated the Arts and Science colleges to have counsellors and may be soon, we can have them in engineering colleges as well. 
- Sunil Paliwal, IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Higher Education 

Continuous communication between staff and students helps 
The kind of democratic setup we have in MCC helps us transfuse concerns, worries and anxieties, especially among the students. Also, we've student leaders in the decision-making body and therefore, there isn't much room for any misunderstanding. Continuous communication between the staff and the students helps us sort out issues and find solutions smoothly. That ensures any untoward incidents. Also, considering the number of stress-related cases that we see these days, we have a full-time counsellor as well. 
- Dr RW Alexander Jesudasan, Principal, Madras Christian College 

Shame the wrong act he/ she did, not the individual 
As a therapist, I feel that we've to be kind in the way we bring up an issue, especially when dealing with youngsters even if they're the ones at fault. These kinds of untoward things happen when the core of a person is disrespected for whatever reason it is. You must shame the wrong act he/she did, not the person. Many fail to differentiate between the two. Even to correct a person, we need not look straightaway at punishment. Also, what needs to be discussed is why an individual is being pressured to do something. In this case, she would have been under so much pressure to pass the exam. So, her intention had been to pass the exam somehow and it ended up this way Magdalene Jeyarathnam, 
Psychotherapist 

Blame it on the isolation within our own homes 
From my experience talking to psychiatrists, some people genetically have this tendency to commit suicide. Meanwhile, in my opinion, this isn't a topic that should be discussed much. Because in some way or the other, that will give people such ideations when they're pushed to a corner. Instead, let's discuss stress management. And the best way to manage it is to talk to someone or call 104 helpline. In the last four years, there have been 1200 people who would have overcome suicide ideation after being counselled by us. There's no way we can avoid pressure, but how we overcome pressure is what that matters. Also, if there's a spurt in the number of suicides, blame it on the isolation that we face within our homes. Everyone is glued on to their mobile phones. 
— Counsellor from 104 helpline 

We need to build a proper, nurturing ecosystem for children 
The family, society, education system and the technological advancement in terms of social media — all these have a cumulative effect on the individual. With social media dominating the web of life (of young adults specifically), the shame the person may have to carry for a minor misdeed amplifies multifold — and becomes a memory that doesn't fade with time. Psychologists have confirmed that we are negativity-biased naturally. Social media seems to increase this vulnerability. Many a time, the individual has been trained or brought up in such a way as to be quite hard on his or her own self — to such an extent that they are not allowed to consider failure or shame as a feather that can be shed. Shame and failure do not come with the same yardstick for all individuals. It is usually not the teacher who's at fault. Let me share my experience here — I went to the school my son studied at one day, so that the parent can observe the proceedings of the class. When asked a question, 80 hands were raised in a 40 student class, with a cry of 'miss, miss'. So much was the enthusiasm to answer. All of them wanted to display their knowledge. When one of them told a wrong answer, the teacher moved on and the kids in the class also didn't care about the wrong answer. It was over at that moment — and the student also never felt any kind of shame in having accidently uttered a wrong answer. 

Being a teacher myself, in one of the colleges where students are considered the cream of the country, when I tested the same method as above, trying to draw the attention of the class into answering a simple question, very few hands went up. These hands were of those who were very sure of their answers. For a long time, I did not understand why this shift. It was later, while dealing with troubled students, that I realised why students' behaviour changes when they get into higher classes — it was all about maintaining their image among their friends and peers. The news about failure spreads fast — and this makes these students very touchy about erring. At IIT-M, we have one of the best Student Counselling Programs in India. 
We have come to believe in moderate and balanced involvement of parents to be an optimal way. Parents themselves seem to need a lot of counselling, as they often tend to unknowingly transfer their anxiety onto their kids, in the belief that they are providing them with a better future. Actually, we need to do a lot of work in terms of building an ecosystem right from home, school, work and retirement that nurtures the individual in terms of themselves, and helps them shed socially driven anxieties. 
— Professor Sivakumar M Srinivasan, Dean (Students), IIT Madras 

Students' council needed in our colleges 
In these places, there are hundreds of non-teaching staff who've no other job but to monitor students in hostels and ensure that they don't gather in groups for any reason. There are no extracurricular activities in these deemed universities. Basically, it's the fault with our education system. We need to restructure that. It's high time that the University Grants Commission (UGC) checked on these deemed universities and the way they function. Also, students council need to be formed in colleges to address their issues. There's nothing of that sort in our engineering campuses, especially in deemed universities. Now, Tamil Nadu is only second in India in the number of student suicides. In the last five years, close to 40,000 student suicides have happened across India. Several such suicides have happened in our deemed universities in the past. With their influence, they have been able to keep them under wraps. Now, it's because of Anita suicide and its aftermath, such incidents are coming to light.
— D Chandru, SFI south Chennai district president


The punishment must be logical 
Children are so mentally fragile these days — I believe they are overprotected by their surroundings and they don't know or want to accept failure. Another reason is that there is not enough communication when the students come to a new college; they don't have friends in the first year, they don't interact with others and feel lonely. I don't know what the inside truth is, but going by the reports, if the girl was caught cheating in the examination hall, a mature teacher would have scrapped her paper and asked her to re-write the paper. They don't need to verbally insult the student in the middle of the examination. But even if the teacher is questioning in the examination hall as to why the student did it, it is not wrong. Today, children are sensitive; they are not able to accept that they are doing something wrong. They do not like anyone questioning them and so is the case with parents these days. If a teacher scolds a student, they are questioned by the parents — 'Why did you talk to my child like that?' So, I don't know where the problem lies exactly. From my experience, I can say that if the students feel and trust whatever their teachers do is for their own good, they won't protest. But teachers must be mature, behave, and the punishment should be logical. 
—TV Geetha, Dean, College of Engineering, Anna University




There's unwanted pressure on students to complete course in four years 
Pressure is there from both the parents and peers. No matter what, parents want their children to excel in higher studies within a stipulated time and get a lucrative job. Our education system and society are giving too much importance to trivial matters; for example, completing a professional course in four years and doing things only the way it is defined. But if you take the case in the world's most developed countries like America, government expects the students to finish a course in 150% of the time. If it's a four-year course, the number of students completing the course in that stipulated time is very less. And the students there don't feel pressured. Also, when they are caught copying in front of their peers, they fear that their parents will come to know about it and they will be left in embarrassment. Because these students would be coming from the same neighbourhood and their families would know each other. With every parent boasting so much about their wards' achievements, this would be an embarrassment. Another thing is that we only focus on the incident, but fail to discuss the root causes. Lastly, it should also be noted that there's a general perception and talk even among parents that private university education is commercialised. So, such feeling creeps into the minds of students as well and they will not pay attention to teachers. They see us as a commercial entity and give no value to our words.


— Koteswararao Anne, Director of academics, Veltech University