Student suicides in 2022: What can stakeholders do?

Student suicides in 2022: What can stakeholders do?

On the occassion of World Suicide Prevention Day, I decided to look up some recent news of suicides in the country. The research which followed disturbed and saddened me to a great extent. All suicides are painful to read, or hear about – even more traumatic to witness. The grief of survivors of suicide often goes unaddressed, and thus unmanaged. 

According to the recent years, daily wage earners, women, transgender people and students have been recorded to be the most common victims of suicide. According to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) 2019-21, 4.7 crore, including more than 17.56 lakh women, ended their life by taking recourse to various means to attempt suicide in the 54 years for which records are available with the organisation. (It is to be noted that attempting suicide has been decriminalised in India. The victim is provided medical and mental help.) The pandemic also witnessed 131 cases of mass and family suicides during the year 2021. On 8th September, just 2 days before Suicide Prevention Day, a 19-year-old girl from Tamil Nadu allegedly died by suicide after failing to clear the NEET. NTA declared the results for the medical exam late at night on September 7, 2022. This is not a rare case of student suicide. According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), in 2020, a student took their own life every 42 minutes; that is, every day, more than 34 students died by suicide.

What are the risk factors?

  • Education in India has been viewed as a gateway to employment and livelihood rather than to knowledge. Many students and their families dream of the coveted ‘sarkari naukri’ (government job) to escape the precarious social, caste and class predicaments they find themselves in. Forcing careers on teenagers lead to them suffering from self-doubt and under-confidence, sometimes culminating in self-harming tendencies.
  • Even though there are numerous great institutions in the country where people can choose what they want to study according to their aptitudes and ambitions, a few of them are the most coveted. Seat are few in these colleges, leading to huge competition. Failing to secure seats in them leads to shame, ridicule from others, even being thrown out of families in extreme cases. All of these can lead to depression, trauma and inferiority which can cause thoughts of suicidality.
  • A significant number of students are bullied and ragged beyond sense every year in our country, out of which some suffer serious consequences, sometimes even death and suicide. Seniors, peers and even teachers can be the perpetrators in such cases. Ragging is still a very acceptable phenomenon in colleges in India. But it has horrible consequences. 
  • Alcohol and substance abuse is another reason why students may attempt suicide. The physical and psychological effects of withdrawal and consequences of addiction on their lives often pushes the to take their own lives.
  • Another thing that increases the risk of suicide among teens include: a psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental disorders (in fact, about 95% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at the time of death), feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation.

Students are the future of the country and protecting them and their mental health should be the number one concern of teachers, parents, mental health professionals and other stakeholders. Notice these signs of risk in students and follow these preventative measures to safeguard their mental health. 

Preventive measures or signs to remember:

  • If they suddenly become sad and moody for a considerably long period.
  • If they suddenly get calm.
  • If they suddenly get withdrawn.
  • If there are sudden changes in personality, appearance, sleep pattern.
  • If they start showing dangerous or self-harmful behavior.
  • If they have recently experienced trauma or a life crisis.
  • If they are in a state of deep despair.
  • If they start visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will and cleaning up their room or home.
  • If they are threatening suicide or talking about wanting to die.

How to prevent suicide in students?

  • Check-in with them regarding their life, friends, how they pass their free time, and especially their mental health (depending on what kind of relationship you have with them and the trust you have built with them).
  • Build trust and friendship so that they feel comfortable sharing their troubles and tribulations with you. If that’s not possible make sure that they have someone they trust (and you trust as well), with whom they can talk to. 
  • Psychoeducate them about mental health, signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, substance abuse and suicide & its prevention.
  • Educational institutions should appoint empathetic and qualified counselors (with a good ratio according to the number of students), who would keep a check on the students’ mental health by conducting training, group and individual sessions and seminars and talks.
  • Encourage them to approach their school or college counselors by de-stigmatising mental health.
  • Understand what is of importance in their life. Encourage them to have aspirations and guide them so that they can follow them.

Being a student is difficult enough. Along with the fact that they’re coming-of-age and have a lot of new situations and feelings to address, they also have a lot of societal and filial pressure. Support them so that they do not feel the need to harm themselves. 

Written by Rima Chowdhury

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