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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

IIT suicides stir debate on campus priorities - TNN

Vinayashree Jagadeesh,TNN | Oct 21, 2015, 02.35 AM IST

CHENNAI: With two suicides in a span of about 30 days, the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras has garnered a lot of attention. A section of students on the campus say the incidents are a reflection of the fact that amidst the emphasis on career growth through programmes in entrepreneurship, innovation and research, the IIT community is not doing enough to address social issues. 

They say there is a lack of discussion regarding social and psychological concerns that can raise awareness, enable bonding and help students cope with disorders. "More and more emphasis is on corporate issues or entrepreneurship lectures. There are hundreds of programmes being carried out every month but we hardly see any events on a public platform that can connect with students on personal or social issues like suicide," said a humanities student who wished to be unnamed. 

It is not easy to determine what leads to a suicide. Multiple factors may be involved in students taking extreme steps. But some say that campuses always tend to hush up such matters instead of openly talking about it to address students' concerns or to enlighten them on the subject. 

"There is a huge communication gap within our campus on even informing students regarding the incident. Many of us got to know of the suicides only through media reports. There is always a tendency to cover up such issues, which is not the right thing. There is no condolence or consolation meeting where all students are informed of such issues," said another student. 

IITM Director Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi said after the first suicide of M. Tech student Nagendra Kumar Reddy on September 21, a talk was arranged to students to raise awareness on such issues. "We are intensifying counselling and talks. Though there are a lot of counsellors available on campus, it depends on students to step forward and share. There is also a 24-hour helpline. Most often, we rely on students to come and tell us if there is a noticeable change in the behaviour of their friends because it is impossible to monitor each student among the thousands present in the campus," he said. 

While IITians admitted that counselling centres are helpful on campus, they pointed out that not everyone is ready to approach them. The stigma associated with depression or disorders makes it all the more difficult for them to talk about it. 

Some wondered if borderline cases may even muster the courage to seek help from a counsellor. This is where discussions help people to open up and address alienation or loneliness, said another student. 

"Academic pressure is a given but we cannot pinpoint the reason behind students taking such drastic steps unless close friends sense something bothering the individual. It also depends on the student's support group inside the campus," said a B. Tech student.