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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two deaths and an attempted suicide later, IIT-B upgrades on-campus student support system - Mid Day

By Shreya Bhandary |Posted 26-Aug-2015
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Besides deploying counsellors in hostels, institute is allowing families of distressed students to stay with them on campus for a few days; students claim nothing much has changed

In the wake of two deaths and an attempted suicide on IIT-B campus in less than a year, the management has taken steps to ensure that students don’t feel stressed or get bogged down by academic or other pressures.

Representation pic/thinkstock

From hiring counsellors to making arrangements for families of stressed students to stay with them for a few days, the institute is deploying various methods to ensure that students are offered a strong support system.

One such method is the appointment of a counsellor to work from hostels. This counsellor is easily approachable as per students’ convenience. “We realised students felt uncomfortable while visiting counsellors at their offices in the main building, so we made arrangements for a counsellor to work from the hostels.

This counsellor moves form one hostel to another on a rotational basis and ensures more interaction with the students,” said Soumyo Mukherji, dean, student affairs, IIT-B, adding, “Since the counsellor is in the hostel, several students freely approach the counsellor. Some of the students simply visit so that they can chat with the counsellor.”

Currently, two counsellors work on IIT-B’s payroll and the third has been hired on a contractual-basis. According to figures given by institute officials, the number of students seeking help from counsellors has increased over the years. At present, on an average, two different counsellors conduct 120 to 130 sessions a month.

Of these, 25 sessions are dedicated to first timers, while the remaining ones are follow-ups. Officials added the number of students attending group workshops on stress management has increased by over 50 per cent due to word-of-mouth publicity, as most of the workshops have yielded positive results for distressed students.

“There are several measures that we are trying to implement, but most of these are still ideas and we want to ensure they are implemented well and benefit our students. For now, students are busy with the orientation programmes and we want them to know that the institute is always there to help them,” Mukherji said.

Counter view
While the institute claims it is implementing all possible measures to strengthen the support system, students have questioned the impact that the counselling sessions have had. 

“The institute may or may not be responsible in certain cases when students take extreme steps.
But, in case of a suicidal attempt or a death, the administration’s reaction has always been far from what it should have been. There is a need for change in the way our problems are treated. Counselling isn’t the only solution,” said a third-year student.

June 2015: A 23-year-old MTech student, pursuing degree in Earth Sciences, tried to end his life when he was alone in his room at Hostel 5. His mates claimed that after the initial attempt to commit suicide by hanging failed, the student popped some pills. He was immediately rushed to the IIT-Bombay Hospital and later to the Hiranandani Hospital in Powai, where he finally recovered.

May 2015: Jitesh Sharma, a third-year chemical engineering student, was found dead on the terrace of one of the hostels on May 2. The 21-year-old was reportedly suffering from depression and was undergoing counselling for over six months. Sharma’s body was found around 7 pm on the terrace of Hostel 15-B. He, however, resided in Hostel 8.

September 2014: Aniket Ambhore (22), a fourth-year student pursuing a dual degree in electrical engineering, died after falling from the sixth floor of Hostel 13. Aniket was immediately rushed to Rajawadi Hospital, Ghatkopar, where he was declared dead on arrival. It is still unclear whether it was an accident or a suicide.

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