iCall – A helpline to assist students deal with exam anxiety

Appearing for any exam induces anxiety and stress in a student’s mind. In addition to the Board exams, engineering aspirants prepare for all India entrance exams like the IIT-JEE. The academic pressure associated with these entrance exams is evident from the number of student suicides reported from different coaching hubs in the country. To provide psychological assistance to students, Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Mumbai, operates a helpline called iCALL (Initiating Concern For All).

Launched in 2012, iCALL is an initiative where individuals need not identify themselves to get assistance. Since its inception, the initiative has received 30,000 calls and more than 2,500 e-mails. The help provided at iCALL is by professional counsellors recruited by TISS. Prof. Sujata Sriram, Dean, School of Human Ecology and in-charge of the initiative said, “Queries asked are of varied nature. Issues range from relationships, academic stress and attention deficit to long working hours.”

Many engineering colleges rope in institutions like TISS to help resident students deal with stress. A case in point is the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay’s (IITB) Student Mentorship Programme (SMP). The mentorship programme is for first year students. Student mentors who help the first year students are trained by TISS in basic counselling for two weekends, if the need be.

Kshitij Jayakrishnan, student coordinator of SMP at IITB said,
“Counselling done through SMP has helped many students deal with rigours of
academic life at IITB. The feedback we have received is encouraging.” Kshitij
further added, “We also have a portal for prospective students. It answers all
queries related to different aspects of life at IITB. This will help students
make an informed choice before applying for admissions.”

PaGaLGuY spoke to student mentors who have been a part of SMP for past
two years. Mentors said that they come across students who attend coaching classes
and have a laidback attitude after making it to an IIT. “They are overwhelmed
by the freedom that comes with the life in IIT. The mentors help students
realize the seriousness of academic discipline,” explained a student mentor. He
further added that it is the parents who are more concerned about hostels,
drinking water, and mess timings than their wards.

Many of the mentors have themselves been mentees in their first year. “I was in
a dilemma between pursuing a four-year course and a five-year dual degree in
two different streams. My mentor insisted me to choose the latter because I was
genuinely interested in that subject,” another mentor acknowledged.

Students appearing for Board exams having anxiety or exam-related stress
or any other difficulty should feel free to avail the iCALL facility.