India is losing its youth to suicides. The number of student suicides in India is rising at an alarming rate. The causes that compelled youngsters to take this drastic step might vary from ragging and discrimination to deteriorating mental health and an insurmountable burden of family expectations & peer pressure. In the movie, 3 Idiots, Aamir Khan (as Rancho) aptly mentioned how humans are capable of creating devices for everything but no such device could be designed that measures the mental pressure faced by students on a daily basis.
The recent incident where a 21-year-old IIT-Delhi student died by suicide is harrowing. Every now and then, there are also reports of teenagers committing suicide in Kota, a city that is known country-wise for its “coaching culture”. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2020 data, suicide was reported as the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 30. The NCRB 2020 data also revealed that every 42 minutes, a student commits suicide. This means that an average of 34 students die by suicide every day.
These statistics just represent the tip of the iceberg. The issue of student suicides goes way beyond the mere pressure of exams & personal failure. It is essential for us to delve deeper into this issue, understand the various factors that affect the students’ well-being, and come up with a viable solution for it.
Every year lakhs of students leave their hometowns and go to the premier coaching institutes with a dream in their eyes to crack the prestigious entrance examinations like IIT JEE, NEET, and UPSC. Many of these students come from economically weaker backgrounds and for them clearing these top exams is the only way they can alleviate their family and themselves from their sufferings. However, this journey is not as dreamy as it might look in movies.
Deteriorating Mental Health
Rising student suicides are a silent epidemic in India. It is “silent” because in most of the student suicide cases, the friends and family of the students have no idea what they have been going through. The cut-throat competition, the anxiety surrounding the probability of clearing the exam, and family expectations are not easy to manage for these tender minds. In most cases, the students who commit suicide, do not share their inner turmoil with anybody and the pent-up frustration and grief aggravate the issue further.
Insurmountable Burden of Expectations
When we talk about the burden of expectations, it is not necessarily accusing parents and families of burdening their children with unrealistic expectations. It is a lot more about how children perceive these expectations of being an “ideal child” or an “ideal student”. Many students, as a natural tendency, attach their worth to their capability of clearing the highly competitive entrance examinations and when they don’t make it, they are filled with agony, grief, and shame. Students often fail to realise that failing in an exam is not the end of their life and they consider it a dead end. Such a grim and bleak mental state often compels these youngsters to end their lives.
The Biggest Question: Whose Fault Is It?
The moment we start talking about rising student suicides and the possible causes for the same there comes this debate about whose fault this actually is. Coaching institutes outrightly state that it is the family’s fault they didn’t “groom” their children properly before sending them to these premier coaching institutes. Whereas, college authorities are quick to mention that the students who commit suicides just don’t have the mental stamina to deal with the highly competitive culture of such colleges.
From students’ perspective, rising student suicides are more of an “institutional failure” rather than a “personal failure”. It is often argued that the rigid curriculum and back-to-back tests leave little to no scope for the students to manage their stress & anxiety in the right way. This way, the blame game goes on and on where both the culprit & the solution to this issue remain unknown.
Save the Youth: How Can We Do That?
The rising number of student suicides is a wake-up call for all the stakeholders which includes the premier coaching institutions, the top colleges, parents & also the students. Instead of getting into the blame game, each stakeholder must take accountability for their actions. The coaching institutes and colleges must redesign their teaching curriculum in way a that supports students’ well-being.
Parents wish the best for their children and there is nothing wrong with it. However, before sending their children off to the premier coaching institutes, parents must ensure that their child is mentally prepared to take that journey. Parents must also avoid putting undue pressure on their children and stop promoting the myth that the only real career options are becoming a doctor or an engineer. In today’s times, a multitude of career options are available to students. Moreover, children must be encouraged to pursue a career they are actually interested in rather than pressurising them to fulfil societal expectations.
Whenever a case of student suicide is reported, getting caught up in the never-ending blame game and firing accusations at other people is the easiest thing we could do as a society. However, it is not what would save our youth. It is essential that coaching institutes, schools, colleges & parents collectively create an environment where students can maximize their potential and also vocalise their concerns without the fear of being judged or criticised.