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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

240 - Suicides at IITs: A prospective solution by Ankit Modi

Ankit Modi (IIT Kanpur       |   2014-04-07 02:34:02   |   

Colleges   |   Opinion   |   Posted By: Invade Cafe


So I was googling about suicides at IITs and there were a no. of links explaining what, how, where and when each of these unfortunate incidents happened. What was missing among those was a 'Why' ? A concrete 'Why'.

I don’t think that academic burden can be the sole reason. Yes, academic pressure might play a part but that’s very different from what I call “academic burden”. The pressure is not there because of the large syllabus or high collegiate content. If that would have been the case then students would not be happy on scoring 50 out of 100 in the tougher courses where class average is 30.

So, the cause behind this pressure seems to be the cut throat competition. And it would always be there no matter how much the course contents are lessened, or contact hours are reduced or gaps between exams are increased. The ideal solution would be to have 100 such IITs for such a large young population. But for now, that’s a distant dream. But till then, can we afford to lose our precious scientific minds at such an early age? No. Absolutely not.

Now that the academic pressure has been sidelined, let’s carry forward our search of that elusive ‘Why’. It's pretty tough to find some commonality in the reasons behind such cases. There are numerous reasons why a person decides to take his/her life and several of those reasons have to come together for it to happen. 

The reasons behind each of the cases might be in stark contrast with the others. But once those reasons have played their part, once an individual has got into that frame of mind, the action that follows is the same for all.

Now, if we can wipe out all the factors which drives a person into that mood, that would be wonderful. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. So, I want to focus on what needs to be done once that frame of mind has been attained. Once the decision to take one’s own life has been taken.

Let’s divide a (suicide) victim’s life in two phases. Phase 1 would be the life which he lived before taking that decision. Let’s call it Pre-decision phase. Similarly, a Post-decision phase (Obviously, the second phase has a few moments or hours.)

Now, I am going to shift my search of ‘Why’ from Pre-decision to the post-decision phase. From “Why he took such a decision” to “Why he didn’t stop himself from actually acting upon that decision”. What knowledge could have we installed in his system so as to make him capable of thinking rationally in that critical situation.

And the solution that I propose comes from one of the links that I talked about earlier. It mentions a quote from our dean. Quoting it, “There are about 6,300 students at IIT-Kanpur. We can't keep an eye on all of them.” 

What if we could keep an eye on all of them. Would that give us a solution. Maybe, yes. But that seems tough, right ? What if we empower them to keep an eye on themselves. Now, the problem seems to ease out a bit.

Okay, but how can it be done? Allow me to present a few points to elucidate how I reached to one such solution.

1. I am currently enrolled in a course where the professor talked about suicides for three complete lectures (since the latest mishappening in the campus). And he inculcated some rationality into my views on this issue. He explained the various circumstances when a person is susceptible to committing a suicide.

After knowing all this, one can clearly identify when he is getting into a mood that can possibly lead to a suicide. And once that mood has been pinpointed, he can warn and pull himself out of that depression (not completely, but to the extent where suicide is not an option).

I strongly believe that none of the students doing this course would ever think of self-destruction in their life.

2. Now if this thinking can develop in students doing this course, then it can also be developed in the remaining junta. So, the solution lies in imparting this knowledge to all the students in this campus. We can do that by holding a lecture or a seminar on ‘Suicides’ but it has been done before and has not led to any fruitful outcomes.

Maybe because the students don’t attend them. But think of it as a polio vaccine. No matter, how reluctant the students are to discuss this issue, we have to infuse this awareness into them. (On that note, claps for becoming a polio-free nation. Now let’s build a suicide free one.)

3. So, the problem is, where can we get all the students together. It can’t be sports, music, dance etc because not all of us are indulged in any one of them. The only viable option is Academics.

3. Coming to academics, what are the courses that are compulsory for all the students. Clearly, PHY103, MTH101, HSSs ( Humanities & Social sciences ) etc are the options. HSSs should be preferred as:

i. They are more closely related to the issue than others.

ii. Talking about suicides in a class of 40-50 students would hit on a more personal level than say, a class of 500.

iii. It helps if we can do this early in their college life. And HSSs are compulsorily taken in the first year.

4. I propose that 2-3 lectures of every HSS course must be dedicated to talking about suicides. And it should be made mandatory.

5. But not all of us attend classes. And those who attend, sleep through some of them. So, how to access these students (remember, we can’t miss out on a single student). This leads me to exams. Every single one of us write exams.

The trick is in not only talking about suicides, but also making them think about it. Because, once we have thought/ read and spoken/written about something, it acquires a whole new different level of reality for us.

For example, if a guy likes Kejriwal but we make him write (at gunpoint) ten reasons why Kejriwal is a total jerk, there is a strong probability that he may consider believing in some of them.

So, my next proposition is that every mid-sem of an HSS course must contain a question on suicide. An example may be:
" What are suicides ? What are the various situations which leads to a suicide. Explain how tragic are the after effects of this experience for the victim’s family. "

Writing about these issues would put ideas in our subconscious mind. This act, done in the pre-decision phase might help a lot during those critical moments of post-decision.

6. Well, but a question has been leaked for the exams. It’s pointless to be worried about that. In fact, it’s an ideal situation. This question would carry free marks and nobody would want to lose them. So, it would be kind of mandatory to read about it. And it would hardly affect the grading as everybody would score at par on this question.

7. But the students would just mug up all the answers without understanding them. That's a valid point. But remember why we started studying physics ? Because it was mandatory to prepare for JEE. And eventually, we fell in love with it. So, let them mug it up. It;s enough that they read about it.

This was all about the solution that I had in my mind. The crux is to somehow make them aware of the consequences. I know this is not a perfect solution. If anything, it is far from perfect.
But this is not what this article was aimed at. Yes, a head fake ( Randy Pausch, anyone ? ). 

I wrote it for my own personal satisfaction. At the end of this post, I would know that I have not cribbed about yet another life being lost at an IIT. Instead, I tried to give a solution. 

And I would urge you all, and specially those who have shown their concerns on social platforms, to come up with a solution. Please come up with at least an idea. However silly it might look. Just think of something and throw it out in the open for discussion. 

I see a plethora of smart thinkers around me and I staunchly believe that if each one of us thinks hard on it, maybe, maybe we can get to that perfect solution.

But till then, let's make the students aware about the different aspects of suicides. Even if it means a forceful awareness.
Make them think about it. Make them read about it.
Or better, make them write about it.

IIT, IIT Suicides, Suicides

- See more at: http://www.invadecafe.com/article/30-suicides-at-iits:-a-prospective-solution#sthash.pCBhiZtA.dpuf