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Student Suicides At All-Time High: Time To Put This Issue At Centrestage Before It's Too Late

The 4th incident in a month raises pertinent questions about the education system, societal expectations, parental conditioning and environmental stimulus.

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Radhika Dhingra
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Student Suicides In India
The sight of her house still stirs the rhythm of my blood. I last saw her many moons ago. She had expressive eyes that commanded everybody’s attention; the ostentatious elegance encapsulated her petite structure. Her parents could not have imagined her being perilously close to life’s finishing line. At the age of 17, her world was unnervingly circumscribed by layers of depression but on the outside, she looked fine.
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Every single day she was battling with depression and trying to reason out the critical inner voice. Every single day she was reminded that she is the eldest sibling and has to be exemplary for others to follow. “Hoshiyar bacha” is not supposed to breakdown, down and talk about chinks in her armour.  There were times that she tried to talk about the plight of being in the midst of the storm and a niggling lack of accomplishment which is eating her out like a termite little by little, day after day to which the standard reply was “don’t think too much, don’t think too loud, don’t think negative.”

When exactly enough is enough?

The voice in her head kept repeating that the game of life is hard to play and she is going to lose it anyway. A night before she lost to the game of life, she indulged in a light conversation with her parents and till the last cognizant moment, her winsome smile was found intact.

Many such incidents of suicide take place every day. This made me question how does one sink into horrible darkness, into a haze of timelessness and why there’s no light they can fathom at the end of the tunnel?

When do you find yourself cooped up in a situation from which there is no way forward, no way out and no one around who cares? What if someone close to you is standing at the threshold and you do not even get to know when courage lapses into cowardice? Cowardice, if at all it is. Does it not require nerves of steel to throw caution to the winds and jump headlong? What is one expected to do when someone’s life has sunk into a morass of dullness and banality? When suicide seems salvation from pain? When suicide is the only comfort, they crave?

Student Suicides In India

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The recent news of the 17-year-old student who committed suicide in Kota. Student suicides in India have reached an all-time high and the recent 4th incident in a month raised pertinent questions about the education system, societal expectations, parental conditioning and environmental stimulus. At a tender age one has not faced major life disruptions then why such an extreme step? Is it the environmental stimulus which is urging them to keep pace with everything?

Helplines across the capital say the average caller in distress is growing younger by the day and suicide attempts primarily are actions of young people. A significant proportion of these individuals are students. India has seen a vast number of student suicides in the year 2022, which has resulted in the NCRB ( National Crime Records Bureau) stating that the number of student suicides has reached an all-time high as compared to the last 5 years.

Provide them with a choice to live

The highest percentage of suicides consistently occurred in the young, productive population of the country over the last five years and nobody talks about it. Suicide prevention is one of the most unaddressed, multi-generational issues of our times. The problem is also that most families keep the stories of suicide in the closet. If people get to know it’s a case of suicide, the family earns a bad reputation. For reasons unknown, people will judge you as a parent and as a family, and you fail. There is an eminent social stigma attached to it.

I’m ambivalent about the scope that we have in hand to change the education system, academic cutthroat competition or societal expectations and parental conditioning. As a society, I feel we have failed if suicide is the only solace we provide to our children.

Our children are not safe, till the time we are not addressing suicide in public forums, in the chambers of commerce, and in school board meetings. Our children are not safe, till the time they feel they are the only ones who are suffering from excruciating emotional pain. Someone has to stand up and say #MeToo. Community leaders and social media influencers have to talk about it. Suicide survivors or the victims of the family have to help people by leveraging their stories, on stories of survival and how they battled with symptoms. If #MeToo as a social movement can take place, so can suicide.

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We have to proactively look at it and deliberate discussions on sensitive topics. We need a mechanism to help children understand their emotions, relationships, and any kind of crisis. Social-emotional learning has to be a part of the school curriculum. Children need to be taught how to manage themselves emotionally. We have to provide them with safe zones to share what they are thinking, to share without prejudice and the weight of being judged and discarded.

We need a protective awning not just for environmental hazards but far more for mental health. This is a massive mental health issue which demands attention from all corners.

Time to save our children, and our future.


Suggested reading: Student Suicides: When Will Society Realise Academics Don’t Define Success?

suicides in India student suicides
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