Task force on preventing student suicides submits report

The Union Human Resource Development Ministry is likely to consider a proposal to give weightage to the appointment of a counsellor in colleges of technical education during the accreditation process, according to sources.

The suggestion has been made by Union HRD Minister Pallam Raju, said M. Anandakrishnan, former vice-chancellor of Anna University and chair, task force on preventing suicides in Centrally-funded technical institutions.
The members of the task force submitted their report to the Ministry on Thursday.

The report included suggestions to the institutions for setting up a dedicated system to cater to the mental health and counselling needs of the students.
A visible entity to provide the service should be established on campus, it insisted.

‘Great idea’

“We had a great response from both the Ministers, Mr. Raju and Minister of State Sashi Tharoor. It was during the discussion that this idea came up from the Minister.

“Though we had not mentioned it in our report, it certainly is a great idea,” said Dr. Anandakrishnan, who is also Chairman of the Indian Institute of Technology- Kanpur.

This would indicate the seriousness of the government’s intention to ensure that students receive emotional support while at college.

The Council of IITs, at its meeting held in September 2011, decided to constitute a task force to study the reasons for incidence of suicides in their institutions and to suggest remedial measures.

A total of 26 CFTIs, with a student strength of over 50,000 responded to the survey conducted by the Task Force.

12 suicides in 2 years

Twelve suicides were reported over a period of two years, and there were 18 cases of attempted suicide in these institutions alone.

Their study showed that the students sought counselling help for academic stress, time management, alcohol abuse, drug addiction, health issues, anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress from parental expectations.

Access to effective care, physical and mental, is a crucial factor that can prevent suicide, explained Lakshmi Vijayakumar, the psychiatrist on the Task Force.

Some institutions, including the IITs in Delhi, Bombay, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Rourkee, and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, had organised services aimed at handling these problems.

Others were in the process of developing such services, according to Dr. Anandakrishnan.

Enabling environment

He made the point that the need of the hour was a proactive and enabling environment for students with psychological needs and heightened awareness and sensitivity towards issues of social justice, including gender, class and caste.