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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

315 - 'Efforts to prevent suicides remain ineffective at IITs'

Yogita Rao & Vinamrata Borwankar,
TNN | May 4, 2015, 02.46 AM IST

MUMBAI: Despite taking several initiatives in the past few years to help students deal with their academic-related stress, the frequency of suicides in IITs across the country seems to have remained unaffected. 

Students on the IIT-Bombay campus have expressed concern over the failure of these initiatives. 

A final year student on the campus said, "It is a real concern for the student community as measures taken by the institute have not really helped much. Everything — getting a good placement, good internships, performance in projects — is co-related to a student's CPI (Cumulative Performance Index). The IIT education system needs an overhaul." 

In September last year, Aniket Ambhore fell to death from the sixth floor of a hostel on campus. While it was not ascertained if it was a suicide, the student was undergoing treatment for depression caused by poor performance in academics. The latest victim, Jitesh Sharma, was also allegedly suffering from depression due to his academics. 

However, IIT-Bombay director Devang Khakhar said, "Less than 20% of the students get the CPI above eight points. A majority of students do not get desirable CPIs but all of them land decent jobs. There are different profiles available for everybody. There cannot be a direct co-relation in this case, but we will try to probe into the matter and see what counselling facilities can be made available." 

Psychiatrists feel there is a need to do more. "There are over 10,000 students but it has only three counselors, when the need is around one counselor for every 700 students. Academic mentors are not trained to identify signs of depression and hence most of these students get to this level," said senior psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty. 

Suggesting a way to improve the mental health conditions in the institute, Dr Shetty said alumni could invest in infrastructure. 

"Not just IITs but all the engineering institutes in the country lack mental health mechanism. When the alumni can invest in sports infrastructure, why not in building full fledged counseling centres," he said. 

However, a senior official said there was enough infrastructure but not many students approach the counselors. 

"The institute has also taken efforts to set up the counseling centre away from the academic building to encourage more students to come forward," said the official.