What you need to know about the student mental health crisis and how to navigate it
Throughout this article, we’ll talk about the mental health of students, various factors that contribute to the crisis, and some possible solutions.
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My attention was recently drawn to such disturbing news, and I am sure yours was as well.
Our country emphasizes mental health more than ever, yet this crisis continues to exist and grow.
Facts and figures:
- Approximately 13,000 students committed suicide in 2020, according to a survey. More than 34 deaths per day, meaning a student took his or her life every 42 minutes.
- Student suicides in our country have increased rapidly over the past five years, exceeding farmers’ suicides, according to a long-term observation since 1995.
- There was an increase in such deaths during Covid, according to NCRB’s (National Crime Records Bureau’s) ADSI (Accidental Deaths and Suicide in India).
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind such drastic measures being taken by students:
Image courtesy: Rackham Graduate School
- It’s no secret that Indian students are compelled from a young age to achieve high grades and focus on their studies in order to succeed in life. This can be an effective motivator or influence if done in the right way, but tying a child’s worth to grades repeatedly can backfire. In terms of employment or social status, parents have certain expectations for their child’s future. Directly or indirectly, this instils in the child’s mind that the ultimate purpose of life is to achieve certain goals and make their parents happy.
- Despite our constitution giving equal rights to everyone, disparities still exist in different parts of the country. Consequently, some sections of society receive a quality education while others do not even receive an education. Every child is unique and has the ability to achieve success in life. Nevertheless, some students do not have equal opportunities because of poor financial conditions.
- The grading systems used by educational institutions can be absolute or relative. Student suicides are more prevalent in institutions with later ones. The class’s overall performance plays a major role in a relative grading system, so students are not just marked based on their hard work. Additionally, many colleges require 85% attendance. In spite of good mental and physical health, this can be challenging. It puts students behind their classmates if not fulfilled, requiring them to repeat the semester. In such situations, a student often becomes demotivated, resulting in poor mental health.
- The educational system is closely linked to the previous cause. Our education system is heavily imbalanced between theoretical and practical knowledge. Our grades don’t reflect our understanding of subjects, but rather our ability to memorize information. Despite having a deep understanding of a subject, many students cannot memorize the exact definitions from the textbook, which causes them to score lower.
- Acceptance is the keyword when it comes to family issues. In most cases, student suicides are a result of family issues. Youths’ actions are frequently met with a hostile or unsatisfied response from their families. In other words, there is not enough support. A number of reasons could be involved, including the pressure to pursue things considered more socially acceptable and the “log kya kahengey” mentality. For the latter one, the 3 Idiots movie is a great model.
- Recent years have seen a dramatic rise in bullying and ragging. The victim of cyberbullying and blackmail feels trapped when he or she is targeted online and blackmailed. Many of them do not notify their families or teachers. There is also the issue of lack of support. In turn, this contributes to depression, low self-esteem, and changes in behaviour.
It is a combination of the competitive nature, constant pressure from parents, society, schools or colleges to perform well, forced career choices, bullying, a lack of support, an imbalanced education system and many others that contribute to these unfortunate events.
The government has implemented several measures, including the National Mental Health Program and the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. In contrast to the former, which focuses mainly on raising awareness about suicide, the latter focuses primarily on implementing effective surveillance mechanisms. Despite the efficacy of these measures, suicide rates continue to rise.
Possible solutions include:
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- In the educational sector, there are many mental health counselling services available. There are very few counsellors, about 3-4 per 10,000 students. Therefore, counselors cannot help as many students as they would like and students cannot seek help as easily. Thus, schools and colleges should focus more on counselling services.
- Discourse about mental health: Students should know they are not alone, there is no single career path to focus on; explore multiple possibilities, and then follow your desire. Results for UPSC were released recently. Approximately 1000 students passed the test out of millions who took it. Thus, exploring other options instead of sticking to one is okay.
- Instilling a growth mentality rather than a competitive one in families, schools, colleges, and students is crucial to their success.
- Every child is unique in terms of their intellectual abilities or talents. Therefore, no two paths can be compared, nor can their success be measured against the same criteria. They should not just provide support for their children but also look for red flags. This could help prevent suicide.
- In order to cope with failures in their lives, students often resort to substance abuse and alcohol abuse. Suicides are also linked to this factor. It is more beneficial to have substance abuse prevention programs.
The solutions above are just some examples. There are dozens of other ways to spread awareness, so it’s not just limited to these.
Hence, it is important that we help build a friendly, accepting, and well-informed community for our youth!
*The author is a versatile engineer with a passion for creating compelling content.
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