Search This Blog


Friday, October 2, 2015

INSIDE STORY MERIT TO DIE FOR - by Sangeeth Sebastian Mail Today

I was approached by Sangeeth Sebastion from Mail today for an interview that was conducted by email exchanges and here is what was published

Why are there so many suicides in IITs 
- By Sangeeth Sebastian 
- Mail Today 27th September 2015

Please click on links above to read the article

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

IITs step up measures to control increasing student suicides - Pagalguy

28 September 2015

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.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

When it becomes impossible to go on: How can we stop suicides? - SIFY

Source :
By :

Last Updated: Fri, Sep 25, 2015 08:21 hrs

Towards the end of Suicide Prevention Month, yet another student of IIT Madras was found hanging in his room.

Nagendra Kumar Reddy was on scholarship; he had topped his class the previous year. By all accounts, he had a promising, lucrative career ahead of him. But it has been speculated that the reason he took the extreme step was that he had not cleared the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) on his second attempt.

Every time someone commits suicide, we wonder why. The person seemed so happy. The person had such a loving family, and so many friends. Even by the complicated parameters of success set by Facebook – a lucrative job, a beautiful and accomplished partner, a cuddly dog, a child or two, and frequent holidays on the beach – most people seem to be making it. And, yet, an extraordinary number of people are depressed.

What is it about the times in which we live that makes life so terrible, that makes us want to give up so often?

The whole world was stunned when Robin Williams, who became a spokesperson for depression even while he made us laugh, ended his life. He seemed to have it all – a stellar acting career, a supportive family, and professional help with his depression. And yet, he found himself in such a dark place that he could not find a way out. We will never know what pressures he faced, what made him want out of it all.

How many of us are equipped to deal with our own bouts of depression, or those of our friends? Most often, we only end up making depressed people feel guilty about their situations – to laypeople, depression appears to be a state of mind, not a chronic condition. To tell someone that he must count himself lucky for all that he has may further exacerbate the problem, because it invalidates his depression.

One of the most critical steps we need to take in tackling depression, and therefore suicide, is to remove the stigma around psychiatric counselling.

Every so often, celebrities speak out about their problems with depression and mental illness. But visits to the psychiatrist are not the norm in this country, if they are anywhere in the world. To go to a psychiatrist is to admit that one is not able to handle pressure, which is seen as a failure in itself.

Perhaps one solution is to make counselling compulsory in all schools, colleges, and workplaces. If one has nothing to say or share, one could just have a chat about the weather and politics with a qualified counsellor or psychiatrist. But for as long as counselling remains optional, people will hesitate to consult a professional, even when they have access.

Some years ago, a study earmarked isolation, competition, and academic pressure as the most common reasons for student suicides at premier institutes.

These are never going to go away. Work pressure is never going to go away either. Even if you don't go to work, Facebook is watching.

Over the decades, we have fostered an environment where one's success is measured relative to everyone else's. We need to be more intelligent, richer, more ruthless, and wittier than everyone else. We also need to be happier than everyone else.

Under such circumstances, it becomes very easy to feel guilty for being a disappointment. It becomes easy to feel that one has let down oneself and one's family, that one is a financial or emotional drain on everyone else, and that the world would be better off without one.

We don't have the mechanisms to talk about why happiness has become so elusive. To admit that we need help means we are not as strong as everyone else. To admit that we are not happy means we are dropping out of the race.

And so, in our moments of distress, instead of turning to professionals, we turn to those we know and trust, hoping to hear a few words that click, something that will make us snap out of it. For many of us, this is enough.

But there are some who cannot "snap out of it". I recently read a tweet about how asking someone who is clinically depressed to "snap out of it" is like asking someone who is deaf to listen harder. And these people, who are as perfect and imperfect as the rest of their colleagues but plagued by something beyond their control, need to be able to speak about their problems in a safe environment, without being made to feel bad about themselves.

Mandatory counselling for everyone may be a good start.

Read more by the author:

Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. She sells herself and the book on

Concerted Efforts Must to End Student Suicides - New Indian Express

By The New Indian Express
Published: 25th September 2015 06:00 AM

The suicide of a postgraduate engineering student at his hostel room inside the Indian Institute of Technology (Madras) earlier this week is a grim reminder of the absence of suicide prevention mechanisms on campuses. Three years ago a Human Resources Development Ministry Task Force, headed by eminent academician M Anandakrishnan, had painstakingly drafted recommendations to prevent suicides in the IITs. It recommended in-house counselling to identify students with withdrawal symptoms and help them overcome thoughts of quitting in life. Many IITs are yet to act on this.

The number of students, who end their lives is disturbing. The National Crime Records Bureau’s Accidents and Suicides in India report shows that 1,31,666 students had committed suicide last year. This constituted 6.1% of the total suicides. Of this, 2,403 deaths were due to failure in examinations. Between 1981 and 2014 an estimated 81 IITians have ended their lives. 

Even coaching factories for cracking the JEE are turning into suicide hubs. Last June, five students of coaching centres committed suicide in Kota. While peer pressure is attributed as a trigger for students of elite institutions to end lives, there has hardly been any substantive research to ascertain why students who crack tough competitive examinations fail to conquer academic hurdles.

Another factor that significantly contributes to suicides is that in India career choices are thrust on students by parents. School Education Departments could play an active role by roping in psychiatrists and academics to determine a child’s aptitude in classes X and XII and help them choose the right academic course so that they are not under pressure in higher secondary classes or colleges. Parents too must be involved in these counselling sessions.

A 2012 study entitled ‘Suicide Mortality’ in India published in the renowned British medical journal Lancet pointed out that most Indians do not have access to community or support services for the prevention of suicide and have restricted access to care for mental illnesses associated with suicide. Treatment for depression is also not widely available. Therefore, combined and concerted efforts by the Education and Health Departments on this front would certainly help to curb student suicides.

Despite counsellors, IITs still struggle with student suicide - PaGaLGuY

24 September 2015

Sanjana Donkar

The media has been rife with news about student suicides in the IITs. The issue which has gained a lot of public interest is rooted farther than what actually meets the eye. According to the data by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of the 1, 31,666 suicides in the year 2014, students accounted for 6.1% (8032 students). The IITs themselves recorded 14 suicides in the same year. Despite measures such as having in-house counsellors, the IITs are still battling to find a tangible solution and eradicate the problem. There is a gap that exists between having a counsellor and students actually approaching them for help.

This year so far, 6 cases of suicides across the IITs have been recorded. In a society where going to the counsellor, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist labels one as having a 'mental problem', it is often difficult for these professionals to reach out to the students in distress and help them. 

PaGaLGuY spoke to various student counsellors in the IITs to ask them about the issues they face while dealing with the students' concerns. "Troubles that the students face and are willing to discuss with us could just be the tip of the iceberg. They are generalised as 'stress which is too small a word to describe what students are going through. And the stigma that comes attached to consulting a shrink is one of the huge road blocks while providing professional help to students," said Dr Shikha Jain, a counsellor at IIT Roorkee. She said it was important to make the students aware and sensitise them in order to avail help.

Even while there are students who openly avail help from the counsellors, at times they face the fear of rumours amongst peer groups. "If anyone from the friends circle gets to know about the visits to the counsellor, eventually they might gossip. It is embarrassing especially if they are issues have like relations and friendship. There are many students who approach the counsellor, but still find it difficult to admit to it," said a second-year student in IIT- Bombay

 A few girls in the IITs also echoed their discomfort to talk about certain issues to the counsellors despite them being friendly and easily accessible. The stigma apart, the students also fear for their privacy. "They don't want to open up about issues, for the fear that their private and intimate information will get revealed. Sometimes their problem might not even be a major issue if you look at it from an outsider's perspective. But for that student that problem could be the cause to get stressed and be depressed about. A lot of us face disagreements in the family, but for a student it could be the trigger, and he or she is not able to focus on studies. Ultimately it can lead to academic pressure and failure. This is then seen as the cause of depression whereas it has been the outcome of the pressure faced by the student," said an official who refused to be identified from IIT Madras. The official also added that it is not a simple equation with a simple solution.

"These are young students, staying away from home. Sometimes it takes them a lot of effort to get acclimatized to the new environment, hostel life and freedom as well. It is important to care for them and address the issues they face. They are in need of constant assurance by their family, by teachers and institute in order to keep going. No issue can be neglected as a minor case. But to reach out to them, and listen to their problem is difficult." said Sharmishta Chakrovorti student counsellor of IIT Kanpur.
Just making the option of professional help available in the campus does not solve the problem. Students may still want to give up and commit suicide. The institutes have been taking measures to address these concerns as well which we will discuss in the second part of this article. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Panel suggestions Still in Cold storage - The Indian Express

By Ram M Sundaram
Published: 23rd September 2015 03:45 AM

CHENNAI: Pro-active suggestions of a special task force appointed by the Human Resource Development (MHRD) ministry to study the increasing incidence of suicides in IITs, NITs and IIMs have still not been implemented even as more and more cases continue to be registered, according to members of the panel.

“We had recommended a counselling system which not only advises students, but also identifies advance indications of people under stress, who are likely to commit suicide. Four years have gone, it has not been implemented,” said chairperson of the task-force professor M Anandakrishnan. This is common among post-graduate students entering IITs and NITs after graduating from ‘lesser’ universities, he said.

The other important recommendation ignored by the institutes was establishing a database of incidents of suicides, Anandakrishnan said. 

A research student in IIT-Madras also pointed out how the institutes want to brush these issues under the carpet, instead of speaking about it in the open. “Fellow students come to know many days later about the death of students. This is the state of affairs,” the student said. The database should not only have numbers, but a comprehensive one providing details of why a student committed suicide in addition to the social, economic and educational background of the victim, Anandakrishnan told Express.

Task force member and psychiatrist Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar said the reason that most PG students commit suicide was either thesis related issues or some problems with their guides or supervisors. “Other reasons include language proficiency and interpersonal problems with their parents who might have wanted them to go for work but they preferred studying further,” said Dr Lakshmi, who also heads the suicide prevention NGO Sneha.

The report also pointed out that these students who might have been toppers in their village or college suddenly feel equal or less in an IIT and end up getting stressed because of this.

“In North India, students are cut off from reality for a year or two at coaching classes and here they are unable to cope with the infinite freedom in the institutes,” Lakshmi reasoned.

Why have suicides become such an epidemic? - The Hindu

September 23, 2015

Suicides seem to have become an epidemic lately. Not a day passes without newspapers reporting yet another unfortunate person, be it a farmer, or a college student or a housewife, taking his or her own life. Each suicide is a trauma caused to the social group immediately proximate to the victim. And so the epidemic as a whole ought to be traumatic for society at large. But it apparently is not.

Sure, lip sympathies are paid: the government announces an enquiry, the parents blame the college, farmers blame the government, colleges feign injured innocence and peer groups feign befuddlement, and life moves on. The usual templates are trotted out to explain each case: if it’s farmer, it’s the debt that killed him. If it’s a student, it’s the academic pressure. If it’s a housewife, it must have been familial breakdown.

It’s when a suicide does not fit any template, such as the death of Maris Stella student Bhanupreeti, or the death of IIT Chennai student Nagendra Kumar Reddy, we are befuddled. Beyond that befuddlement, we must ask the right question. 

The question is not why so many teenagers are taking their own lives, when they ought to be looking forward to life. The point is that they are. The question ought to be what we can do about it. 

It’s not enough to know that academic pressure or indebtedness -- any other explanation that might be -- are trigger factors for suicide. The conclusion we must face is that these social factors are corroding our sense of self-worth, and when that cuts through all defences, a person decides that he or she has nothing to offer to the world and must therefore extinguish oneself.

Counselling psychologist T.S. Rao hints as much in relation to the Maris Stella suicide: “It is clear that stress is not the only factor that drives students to suicide. Students in such colleges (like Maris Stella) are not under great stress. Some corporate colleges make their students cram for 14 hours a day, but this is not one such college.”

While any number of measures might be taken to ease academic stress or indebtedness, what is perhaps wiser to do is to train our sights on shoring up an individual’s sense of self worth. This means that we have to work towards removing the stigma attached to be in debt, or the opprobrium that comes when a child is not a topper and therefore certifies himself or herself a failure.

The epidemic of suicides clearly suggests that we need psychological counsellors as much as teachers in our colleges, and teachers who are friends as much as they are evaluators. By extension, it goes that parents must be parents more than drill sergeants, and so on.

To start with we need trained psychologists and psychiatrists who play a greater role in the centre of this phenomenon and not just at its edges. The number of qualified practitioners of both kinds in India is laughable. According to the National Survey of Mental Health Resources, there are just 4,000 psychiatrists in the country against the WHO norm of 12,000. 

While there should be one psychiatrist for every one lakh population, there is one for every three lakh population in India. No wonder that the psychiatry is among the less preferred specialisations for a medical graduate. Why would that be? Why isn’t the psychiatrist a hero just as much as a surgeon is? That must stem from the belief that storms in the mind are something to be ashamed of, something to be kept secret and suffered in private. That’s where we must begin: with the realisation that the mind is the most delicate of a person’s identity, and must be kept healthy and nurtured just as much as the heart.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Strong support structure for students needed - The Hindu

CHENNAI, September 23, 2015

The student’s death puts spotlight on psychiatric counselling services. In the last five years, at least five suicides have been reported from the institute. Three of them were by M. Tech students and two of them hailed from a modest background.

Psychiatrists say medically the number of suicides is no different from the general population but they call for concerted efforts to prevent them. Three years ago, a report was submitted to the Central government recommending changes to prevent suicides in IITs and centrally-funded institutions.

Alok Bajpai, psychiatrist attached to IIT-Kanpur said: “We have a counselling service at IIT-Kanpur, but despite our best support, they do happen. At one point a spate of suicides was reported with six or seven students from various classes. But it is now more or less controlled.”

Dr. Bajpai said huge societal pressure of unnecessary competitiveness, disappearance of flexibility on the part of their parents and economic pressure “push students over the edge.”

Help at hand
IIT-M has an organisation called Mitr for students to access psychiatric help. “It is a group with students and professors representing various departments. The student group will put us on to professors who then help us consult a psychiatrist. 

Students can also call the helpline and meet a psychiatrist,” said a recent graduate.

Professor Bhaskar Ramamurthy, Director, said: “The Anandakrishnan Committee recommendations had been implemented in full. Ultimately it is for the student to seek out help. He said the boy was doing well in his studies.”

(I)IT's Not Right to Give Up Fight - Indian Express

By Siddharth Prabhakar
Published: 23rd September 2015 03:45 AM

CHENNAI: The suicide of yet another post-graduate student at the prestigious Indian Institute of Madras (IIT-M) has once again put the focus on the high pressure conditions in elite institutions.

For an engineering-crazy society and parents, getting an admission in the IITs is seen as the pinnacle of achievement for any student. Considering the fat pay offered by companies during placement drives, many students from humble upbringing or rural backgrounds enter IITs with sky-high ambitions, but with equal vulnerability, said an IIT-M professor. 

“They fail to cope with the tough and demanding courses,” he said, speaking from his experience as a hostel warden. The situation is worse for post-graduate students, who have graduated from colleges or universities ‘lesser’ than IITs, as there is an exponential rise in the output demanded by the professors and the course structure, said a PhD student.

Another former M Tech student of the institute alleged that there were cases where professors would extend the project or grade it lower, thus damaging the placement prospects of students. The professor who has also been a hostel warden, said students at the institute were aloof and do not have a support system of friends or family to fall back upon in case of a failure in exams or placement tests.

Agreeing with this view, the research student said IITs are vastly different compared to arts colleges or even other engineering colleges where a huge friends group would ensure sharing of grief. “Inside IITs, students who are already under the pressure of a tough syllabus have to deal with failure on their own. This culminates into suicide,” he reasoned.

The aloofness is for a reason, the M Tech student said. “Students condition themselves to be self-centred and driven, with a focus only on professional success to be preferred as best candidates for the campus placements. They don’t have a social life where they relax,” he said.

The professor said every hostel has at least 2-3 members who would be depressed. “It is the warden’s duty to be vigilant and recognise such persons and take him to a counsellor. IIT-M has Mitr — a unit which specifically deals with this. But a counsellor can only be successful if they get complete access to the patient’s thoughts,” he said.

Reasons for suicide have often been trivial. The professor recalled a case where a student killed himself as friends he considered educationally inferior scored higher marks in the GRE examination. “In some cases there are also family issues,” he said.

IIT-Madras Student Hangs Self in Hostel After Returning From Hometown - Indian Express

By Express News Service

Published: 23rd September 2015 03:42 AM

N Narayana Reddy father of IIT student who committed suicide waiting to receive the body at government Royapettah hospital in Chennai on Tuesday. | (Jawahar/EPS)

CHENNAI: In yet another case of suicide by bright young minds inside premier campuses in the country, a 23-year-old post-graduate student of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, the only child of an agrarian family from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, was found hanging from the ceiling of his fifth floor hostel room on Monday night.

Naram Narendra Kumar Reddy (23), a native of Kesavapuram in Kadapa district in Andhra Pradesh, had returned to Chennai only on Monday morning after visiting his native place for Vinayaka Chathurthi holidays. 

As he did not come out of his room in Tamraparani Hostel for a long time, his friends checked through the window to find him hanging, around 5 pm, police said.

His family reached Chennai on Tuesday afternoon. The family members came to the institute to collect his belongings before heading to the Government Royapettah Hospital where the body was kept. They returned to their native place by road in the evening. So far, no suicide note has been found and the reason behind the suicide is unclear. 

There were no indications as to why Naram Narendra Kumar Reddy took the drastic step. Even as they admit that they are yet to unravel the mystery behind the suicide, officials from the city police say he could not clear the GATE exam during consecutive attempts in 2014 and 2015. “He was also upset that his juniors were well-placed ahead of him,” said an official.

However, his friends in the campus are not convinced by this, pointing out that Narendra was a bright student whose education was being sponsored under a scheme by noted company, L&T, under which he was drawing a stipend of  Rs 13,000 per month.

“His job is already secured as per the agreement,” said his under-graduate classmate, Subodh.

Echoing him, Akhil, another of Narendra’s friends, dismissed the police version, pointing out that the deceased was ranked around 2,000 in GATE 2014 and 700 in GATE 2015.

“This is ridiculous. Do you think that someone can simply walk into an IIT? He is strong in his academics,” he said.

His family members told the media here that he had spoken to them last around 8 am on Monday morning.

“He told me that he was tired and was planning to take a nap. About 12 hours later, I got a call from his friends that he is no more,” said Narendra’s distraught father, N Narayana Reddy.