The rise in number of suicides in IIT Chennai is shocking. Since April 2018, there have been four incidences of suicides reported at IIT Chennai alone. Why are students taking this drastic step of taking away their life? This is a question that needs a solution and prevention methods to be put in place urgently. IIT Chennai Suicides, have captured a lot of media attention. This is generally due to the immense scope that students have after they graduate from the Premium Technical Institute.
IIT Chennai in the News
IIT is the top most institute in the country offering higher education and research in the field of engineering. It is a prestigious institute of national importance. The first IIT was set up in Kharagpur in 1951 and today there are 23 such centers all over India. Admission into one of them is the best bet in life as far as a brilliant career is concerned.
IIT Madras is ranked as the top engineering institute in India, according to the survey conducted under the NIRF of the Ministry of Human Resources Development, India It also came second in ranking after IISc Bangalore as the best institute in the country in the Overall Ranking of Institutions.
Recently, IIT Chennai has been in the spotlight but for the wrong reason. A first-year student from Kerala, Fathima Latheef, ended her life on November 9th by hanging herself from the ceiling fan of her hostel room. This is the fifth such incident in a year’s time to happen in IIT Chennai and it is alarming to say the least.
IIT Chennai Suicide History
As per data compiled from different RTIs, in the last 10 years, a total of 52 suicides have been committed in the eight centers of IITs in India. Of this, IIT-Madras tops the list with 14 suicides and four in the last one year alone.
As per a recent report, about 10 percent of the total IIT students in a given year seek psychiatric and counselor services. The issues are varied, from academic pressure, stress and relationship issues. This is a clear indication that these young students are being plagued with mental health issues and depression.
The most recent case is of Fathima Latheef, a first-year Humanities student. On November 9, 2019, she hung herself from the ceiling fan of her hostel room. In the note recorded in her cellphone, she has cited the reason as religious discrimination and pressure by some of her lecturers, naming three them. While the college has offered condolences, it has failed to take any action against the named faculty. The case has been transferred to CBI for investigation as the deceased’s father petitioned the courts citing little or no faith in the tamil nadu state police.
Why are so many Students Committing Suicides
As a student from IISc. Bangalore put it, “Suicide by an IITian is usually the denouement of a long and complicated history and not a random act under pressure.“
Today’s students are faced with a lot more pressure to perform and excel than compared to students from a decade ago. IIT’s have the cream of students coming in from various parts of the country and just because the most talented of the lot end up here, there is a tremendous pressure on other students to keep up and hence, a higher chance of failure.
The atmosphere in these top-notch engineering institutes is toxic to say the least, owing a lot of factors. Some of these include high expectations, cut-throat competition, apathy, solitude, skewed gender ratio, and peer pressure. The other general factors are religious, caste, and gender discrimination that are still prevalent in our society.
In the first year, students face the pressure of assimilating into the highly competitive atmosphere of the institute. Lectures demand performance and constant good scores. In the final year, students face peer pressure as they face the fiercely competitive campus placements, the very thing they have worked hard all these years for. It kind of makes or breaks a student.
Added to the mix is the unrealistic expectation from parents and financial burden hovering over the students’ head and to secure a well paying job.
In this case, did any of the above factors matter? or was the student forced to commit suicide, due to marginalization as mentioned by various media? The answer to this can only be determined by the final report that will be filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Discrimination in IIT’s Leading to Suicides
Based on conversations with various media houses, it is true that some segments in the IIT ecosystem is almost completely dominated by citizens from a particular community. Now this itself is not the issue nor the fault of that community. But when there is an attempt to gag the opinions of others, is when the challenge erupts says a student who spoke on conditions of anonymity.
The Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras has been actively voicing out their concerns to the College authorities. They have issued Facebook posts to this effect. There is strong solidarity expressed by various associations in other IIT’s.
Since the group is by the students of IIT Madras, it is necessary for the authorities to address this issue of mental health. Irrespective of the causative and influencing factors, it is necessary to note that a strong mental health will ensure out students are able to scale to better heights.
Why do people Commit Suicide? What can be done to reduce Students Suicides?
Depression and suicidal thoughts is rated the number one cause of people taking this extreme step. According to a study published by The Lancet, in 2010, there were 1.87 lac suicides in India. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have the highest suicide rates and between the age group of 15 to 24, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.
Read our article on Cause of Death in Chennai
The feeling one experiences is of overwhelming emotions for an extended period of time, feeling of hopelessness and seeing no way out. When such an individual does not receive help in time, these feelings of fear, hopelessness, self-hatred, and consequent isolation leads them to take this route of ending their misery.
In today’s world of innumerable distractions available through social media, people in general, especially the young generation and students, have a lot of freedom but with very little or no sense of accountability or responsibility to go with it. This has brought about an exposure and awareness for them that they are mostly unequipped to handle. Learning from mistakes often comes at a dear price.
Students, at a young age face pressures from all directions. They are expected to succeed in all spheres of life. This includes, academics, social life, talents, “well-paying” corporate job among others. These expectations are put on them by the society starting from family, their schools, and their peers.
In such a scenario, they tend to lean towards their friends. They themselves not only understand and empathize with them but also counsel them, albeit unwisely. Professional organised help from Psychiatric Professionals is very much necessary.
It is required that parents and close family members be the first point of comfort and strength for our youngsters. Only then the responsibility can be further shared by the school and others. Values must be taught at home through example, with emphasis on truth about success in life.
The measure of one’s success must be redefined today by parents. Children, especially the teens must have a friendly relationship with their parents. They should be able to discuss their issues and struggles of all kinds. This way, they do not have to rely on a chaotic external world.
Our institutions must have effective mechanisms in place where students can anonymously state their grievances and get help. Professional counseling and psychologists should be made available. This is much more necessary in higher levels of education. This will ensure one can get advice, help and support in time.
Suicide Prevention in Chennai
The capacity to gracefully accept failure and defeat as part of life is a crucial learning that everyone needs. This is because life is not a bed of roses but a path that gives you a mixture of experiences along the way. There are thorns found right next to the roses and yet life is beautiful when accepted for what it is.
Everyone born will taste all seasons and colors of life. It is for us to develop an appreciation for it and grow up into mature individuals who are responsible, positively-contributing members of a community.
When failures are accepted as gracefully as a win, one grows in virtues of patience and gratitude. The joys of life are reserved only for those who learn to appreciate the small things and not just the big dazzling events of one’s life.
Young children and teenagers, while they are growing and maturing through life, need a lot of counsel and help, in the form of trustworthy friendships and also institutional help.
The Health & Family Welfare Department of Government of Tamil Nadu has taken a lot of initiative in curbing the high suicide rates in the state. One of them is Sneha Suicide Prevention Helpline. In its operation over the last three years, it has helped prevent thousands of potential suicide cases. Here’s a list of numbers one can reach out to in time of need.
Suicide Helpline Phone Number and Counselling in Chennai
Sneha Suicide Prevention helpline – 044 -2464000 (24 hours)
State suicide prevention helpline – 104 (24 hours)
iCall Pychosocial helpline – 022-25521111 ( Mon – Sat, 8 a.m – 10 p.m)
Jeevan Suicide Prevention Hotline: 044 2656 4444
Office Support for Suicide Prevention
Sneha Foundation Trust
11, Park View Road, R. A. Puram
Chennai – 600028
In conclusion, life is a gift that must be treasured and nurtured. There are challenges no doubt and hilltop and valley experiences, but life offers enough support as well to sail through and to eventually succeed and finish well. In the words of Jack London, “Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.”