IITs step up measures to control increasing student suicides

Suicides at the IITs have grabbed enough attention from the public and the authorities at the IITs. Six suicides have been recorded in the IITs, so far this year. We spoke about the barriers that students faced while approaching a counsellor in the campus in the Part-1. Here is what the IITs had to say when PaGaLGuY spoke to them regarding the additional measures that have been initiated in the campus apart from the exisiting Counselling Cells.

Dr Shikha Jain who heads the counselling department of IIT Roorkee says, “IIT Roorkee has a Counselling Cell with student volunteers, instead of just the administration and the counselling team. Since students spend a lot of time amongst their peers, we decided to train these student volunteers to identify any student who may be in need of help,” She also added that the training that is given to the student volunteers is done by professionals from time to time. The students also use the anonymous forms to notify the Counselling Cell if they find any student’s behaviour unusual. On an average, there are 3 to 4 students who visit the counsellor in a day. “There is no time limit that we have for the sessions while consulting with students. It entirely depends on the students and the extent of their need.”

Mikul Patel, who is a volunteer with the cell says, “Certain students may have issues in their personal life or in college. We notify about such students to our counsellors if we ourselves cannot help them in any way.”

IIT Madras rechristened their counselling cell as Mitr (Mentor for Individual Transformation) two years ago. They have now redoubled their efforts, not just to reach out to the students who possibly are in need, but also to create acceptance among the students to ‘visit’ a counsellor. “We have 80 student volunteers, called mentors in the campus who are in the 4th year. Each of them is responsible for close to 10 students of the junior years. In order to acquaint the mentor students with the rest of the campus, we conducted an informal cricket tournament, where both mentors as well as juniors participated.  The students spend so much time with each other so it is good to have students involved in helping each other,” says an official from IIT Madras. The core members, which include the Student Advisor, and the Coordinators in-charge for the hostels, are trained professionally along with the mentor students.

IIT Bombay started a new Facebook page, ICare IITB, in the wake of recent suicides, in July 2015. This is in addition to the already existing counselling cell in the campus. The institute has also increased their number of in-house counsellors from just one counsellor to two permanent counsellors and one more on a contractual basis. 

“Students can use the Facebook Page to get regular tips on managing stress, anger, anxiety etc. We also come to know about any upcoming workshops organised by the Counselling Centre such as academic stress management,” says Aditya Menon, a second-year student.

‘Better late than never’ is what the mantra seems to be, and the IITs are vigorously trying to make sure that students don’t take such extreme steps such as suicide due to distress. Despite the presence of counsellors, IITs have now sought the involvement of the students in order to tackle the growing number of suicides. However, it remains to see if these initiatives will bring about any drastic changes in the rate of student suicides in the IITs.  

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