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Breaking Silence on Silent Sufferings

A 14-year-old died by suicide after being allegedly harassed by a teacher who suspected her of stealing Rs 2000. The body of an MCA student caught cheating was found floating in Gomti in Lucknow. The Inspector confirmed suicide. “I am sorry Daddy” a note trended on the internet post the suicide by a Class12th student for having missed his board examination. These are just a few to mention as we enter this Amritkaal, the story continues and is inevitable breaking silence on silent sufferings.

As per the NCRB data 2022 over 1.71 lakh suicides were recorded with 468 people taking their lives every day. A student commits every 42 minutes in India. The situation is more alarming as we know, because several more cases go unreported probably due to attached social stigma and accompanying legal consequences.

One major issue to be blamed is the default education system of India where the focus is on rote learning instead of critical thinking. The criteria for defining a meritorious student depends upon the percentage he/she scores. This puts undue pressure on the child where the goal shifts from learning to scoring marks. But then the question arises that the individual who scores marks must be learned, however this is not the case. The State Achievement Survey conducted among 2.1 lakh students of classes 3, 5, 8, 9, and 10 has shown that despite scoring higher marks the basic concept of the students remains uncleared.

The marking pattern is a façade because the same meritorious child when failing to clear the cutoffs of the so-called prestigious institutions, within days is reduced to an average student. With limited seats in these government institutions and cutoffs going as high as 97 percentile (DU colleges), the competition is increasing day by day. But it is not the competition but rather the stigma attached to the failure that fears the student, as a 17-year-old has to keep up with the huge burden of expectations of society including both parents and relatives. This stress has become one of the major causes of suicide among teenagers.

The problem seems to end here as the ones who enter these prestigious institutions are considered to be individuals who are the best brains in the country with high mental acumen. Life seems sorted as these institutions guarantee packages worth crores of rupees and this is what is required as per the terms of the society.

However, this is not the case, according to the Government data sixty-one students have died by suicide over the past five years at India’s premier institutions of higher education. Of these, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) accounts for more than half of the suicides. The reasons identified behind such suicides include academic stress, family reasons, peer pressure, etc.

The stress does not end here, rather the frustration grows when these students after graduating from one of the best institutions in the country fail to find a job. As per India Employment Report 2024 about 66% of unemployed youth have secondary or higher levels of education. Further with the arrival of technologies like ChatGPT and Devin AI, artificial intelligence is replacing more jobs. The contractualization and informalization of jobs have added to the stress levels. Also, the craze for Government jobs to escape the precarious social caste and class predicaments leads to youth spending most of his productive years in preparation. The long years of preparations and instances like paper leaks end up leaving the youth devastated and ultimately leading to suicides.

This points out another major issue which is the lack of awareness and casual approach towards mental health. The survey by India’s National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) found that nearly 150 million Indians need mental healthcare services, but fewer than 30 million are seeking care. Further, the prevalence of mental morbidity is high in urban metropolitan areas, the major cause is growing loneliness with an increasing prevalence of nuclear families. Nearly 1 in 20 persons suffer from depression. 0.9 % of the surveyed population were at high risk of suicide. There still exists a lack of sensitivity in society towards the mental health issue as evident in the cases of witch-hunting. Also, due to the attached social stigma people suffering from mental health issues feel ashamed and avoid medical health, thereby preferring isolation which further increases the chances of suicide.

Moving beyond the causes, the solution lies in not only governmental schemes but also in fixing accountability of the society. As a society, we need to accept that mental health is as important as physical health. Social institutions like parents, teachers, friends, and relatives need to evolve to ensure the mental well-being of individuals. Suicide should no longer be a social stigma but instead considered a serious issue.

Apart from social institutions, the Government also needs to invest more in mental health to reduce the suicide rates of the individual. The National Mental Health Policy needs to be implemented with full political will. As the elections approach the farmer suicides though would be recognized as a crisis but at the same time, the crisis of suicide amongst youth also needs to become an election issue. The way forward to resolve any issue is to mainstream it and make it a matter of larger public discussion because only that solution is sustainable and based on a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down approach.

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About the author

Sneha Yadav is an electronics engineer with post graduation in political science by qualification. Sneha has wide-ranging interests in the contemporary social, economic, administrative and political issues of India.

Sneha Yadav

Sneha Yadav is an electronics engineer with post graduation in political science by qualification. Sneha has wide-ranging interests in the contemporary social, economic, administrative and political issues of India.

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  • Its a matter of real concern.


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