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July 04, 2020 Saturday 06:28:12 PM IST

Sprouted in Fire, does not Wither away in the Sun!

Cover Story

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;...

-Rudyard Kipling

The alarming rise in student suicides is putting focus on the role of family and schools in giving children life skills rather than a restricted focus on academic or material achievements.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2018 revealed that student suicides in India had risen alarmingly to 10,159 compared to 9,905 in 2017 and 9478 the year before. It is said that every one hour a student commits suicide in our country and 28 such suicides reported every day. At a global level every year 800,000 people commit suicide and it is responsible for more deaths than malaria, breast cancer, war or even homicide, according to World Health Organisation (WHO). It was the second leading cause of death among 15- 29-year-olds claiming 200,000 lives in 2016.

As per the data from the Ministry of Human Resources Development, 27 students from the 10 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) across India committed suicide between 2014 & 2019. In the coaching centers of Kota in Rajasthan, there has been a series of student deaths every year, 58 students ended their lives in Kota between 2013 and 2017. What could be the reasons behind the rise in student suicides in India?

In schools and colleges, the emphasis is on academic achievements and as they become adults the focus shifts to materialistic or physical attainments in life, according to Arun B Nair, Psychiatrist at Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram. The attitude of ‘keeping up with the joneses’ develops and our wealth, automobile, size of house gets compared with neighbours or peers. Success should be redefined to make children think about the philosophy of life.

“It means what the next generation should remember you for or in your life time. If a person’slife mission is to do the maximum good to large number of people, his values will be like that accordingly. He won’t harm anyone intentionally or unintentionunintentionally.

This is the thought process with which we should develop the philosophy of life. In its absence, a philosophical vacuum or emotional vacuum is created in their minds.”

To bridge this vacuum, students adopt three self-injurious patterns of existence -depression and suicides, 2) aggression and violence and 3) addictions which include substance (alcohol, drugs, smoking etc.) and behavioural addictions that bring happiness such as social media, mobile, porn addiction, game addiction. The current education system is driving students to these self-injurious patterns of existence and that has to change, Dr Arun B Nair added.

Over Protected

When children are protected from adversities or taking up small challenges or risks, children fail to develop life skills. Thomas George, a corporate trainer recalled a conversation between a mother and teacher at a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting in his niece’s school. Mother: Please don’t give my daughter any needlework exercise. Teacher: Why? Mother: She will prick her finger and it can cause pain,that’s why I don’t want her to do it. Thomas George laments with such concerned talk, are we trying to instill resilience in our young?

Job Kuruvilla, academician, noted that teachers are ill-equipped to deal with emotional problems of students and principals are appointed on considerations other

than merit and they follow redundant, immature disciplinary norms that further cause stress in children. Parents are also not equipped to understand brain and genetic disorders or intervene at the right time with medical help in cases such as dyslexia, autism etc.

Evolutionary Trait

Suicides are seen only among humans and not in any other animals. This was most likely due to tragic byproduct of a vital adaptation: the sophisticated human brain, according to Nicholas Humphrey, Emeritus Professor at London School of Economics in a reported quoted in the journal Science (Aug 22, 2019). This idea also shared by a psychotherapist Clifford Soper of Lisbon clashes with the medical view that suicide is chiefly driven by psychiatric illness. Even as suicide may appear to be natural for humans, they have also developed a set of defenses, such as religious beliefs, to counter it. When faced with agonizing pain, a sophisticated mind can think of death as an escape. Humans have big brains and much more complex social lives, culture and awareness of death, according to Prof Humphrey and DrSoper. That may be the reason why suicides were reported as back as hunter-gatherer stage. A 4000-year old Egyptian poem mentions suicide and so do historical records.

Religion may provide protection against suicide and developing an inner resilience when it nurtures close-knit social networks, according to Bernice Pescosolido, a sociologist at Indiana University. “It is interesting to note that, in many spiritual traditions resilience is defined as the touchstone of spiritual maturity. I shall readily refer to Christian spiritual tradition, which contents that if Jesus has not risen from the dead, the faith is on wrong foundations. Ability to resurrect after complete decimation of the self is considered here as proof of true faith! In other words, Adversity Quotient (AQ) is treated as the measure of spiritual maturity,” opined Dr Varghese Panthalookaran, Professor at Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology (RSET). If elements of spirituality and values are not given to children they will end up becoming monsters, according to CN Manoj, CEO of Pelican Biotech and Chemical Labs.

Contagion Effect

Widely publicized deaths of celebrities including that of Actor Robin Williams is said to trigger a contagion effect and unnatural death of Sushant Singh Rajput, billionaire businessman V G Siddhartha was reported in detail by the media. “Glorifying suicide victims as martyrs can encourage vulnerable, impressionable individuals to follow that lead. The causes of suicidal behaviours are complex and multifold,”according to Dr Anju Tresa Andrews, Psychologist at Elite Mission Hospital, Thrissur. Exposure to the suicide of one person encourages others to attempt such behaviour. The contagion effect appears to be stronger among adolescents than adults. Hence, it is strongly recommended that news stories avoid sensationalizing the act, glorifying the person involved or providing how-to- details.

In case of mental distress or suicidal tendencies call toll-free helpline 080-46110007 (NIMHANS) or in Kerala DISHA 0471-2552056, 1056 (toll free) or consult a nearby mental health professional.


This article contains information about depression, mental distress and suicide meant for educational purposes only.