Is failure in the exam the only reason why students commit suicide? Parental expectations, undue pressure, peer comparison and the inability to cope with a new environment are among the factors that tip students over the edge, finds out Vibha Singh
No matter what you’re going through, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it may seem hard to get to it but you can do it and just keep working towards it and you’ll find the positive side of things. –Demi Lovato
Case1: A Std IX student of Ryan International School in Kharghar, took her life by hanging herself. In the suicide note she wrote, “I can’t study further. Sorry, mom and dad.” The girl was getting poor marks in her exams for some time, and hence, was under extreme pressure to study.
Case 2: Four cases of suicides have been reported across Hyderabad following the release of the Intermediate exam results in past one week.
The increase in rate of suicide in school and college students is a cause of worry in India. In the three years since 2014, over 26,000 students have killed themselves, as per the latest data sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The number for 2016 alone stood at 9,474 — that’s one suicide every 55 minutes. At 1,350, Maharashtra logged the highest number for 2016, accounting for 14 per cent of the total.
According to National Mental Health Survey published by the National Institute of Mental Health And Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), the suicide incidence rate per 1,00,000 population for those below the age of 14 was 0.5, while those in the 14-17 age bracket recorded a suicide incidence rate of 9.52 — higher than the national individual average of 0.9%.
Why is this happening?
Many students generally succumb to very high amount of pressure, especially from their family and teachers in terms of their career choices and studies. In the race to secure seats in top-notch institutions, many students give up and try to see suicide as the last resort. Arjun Sarin, an academician and child counsellor says, “In my view I believe the family and society is responsible for this attitude. Instead of making our children understand that failure is also equally acceptable as success, we make them feel that failing is a heinous crime.”
As a society, we have put success and achievement on a high pedestal. Sadia Saeed, founder and chief psychologist, Inner Space says, “By comparing children to others and creating shame in them when they fail, we have tied their self-esteem and sense of self-worth with success. Students who cannot meet the expectations set by themselves and others around them feel like they have no way out. They cannot tolerate the shame that comes with failure.”
Seconding the statement, Deepti Srivastava, teacher, says, “Students are opting for suicide, because of peer pressure and low self- esteem.”
In majority of the suicide cases, causes are unknown. Call it lack of communication or strained parent-child relationship, many times children find it hard to freely express their concern about the pressure that they feel. The basic rule of sociology is that communication is very necessary. The statistics have shown that 60 per cent of cases reported of depression come over it just by basic counselling.
Sonal Goyal, a student says, “During exams I was not able to focus due to the pressure as I used to feel that I have forgotten everything. But then I used to talk to my mother who used to give her own example that even she felt the same when she had to face a tough situation and I used to get comfortable.”
Right guidance is important
It is important that parents and teachers start making an effort to understand the skills and abilities of their children. Namita Purohit, founder, Build Worthy, who believes in a 360-degree development of people to enable them in becoming agents of change is of the view that, “An exam result is just one of the many events in their life and life is a great teacher. There is a wealth of wisdom that comes with every life event. If we use the event of so called failure wisely we stand to grow in so many ways. I had failed 11 interviews in various software companies before I made it through eight rounds of interview at Microsoft USA and landed a job there. Every interview I failed helped me understand what I needed to work upon, like either my problem solving capability, communication and emotional balance amongst so many things.”
Life goes on
It is every important for parents or teachers to understand their pupils. Students need to be assured and told that suicide is not the solution for their problems. There is help available in the form of counsellors, psychologists and even friends who are more than willing to help students cope with it. Students who are waiting for results need to know that it is normal for them to feel stressed. Their peers are most likely feeling the same way. It will be helpful if they talk to their friends and realise that they are not alone. T Rajeshwari, Psychotherapist, says, “Failure in an exam does not prove that a student is a failure. It’6s a momentary phase when one did not actually recollect the answer but may be if the same exam is conducted again one can be a topper. So one just has to let this phase pass and look forward for the next positive step.”
Sharing her views Ankur Mehta, director, Pause n Learn says, “We should help students by helping them find their ‘why’. Unfortunately most of the society is worried about ‘how’ first. ‘How can I achieve more in less?’ ‘How can I win?’ ‘How can I compete?’ ‘How can I become someone?’ But more important is ‘why should I become’ — that defines the purpose. A purpose keeps you going against all odds. It kept Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Luther king Jr, and APJ Abdul Kalam, going!”
Deepa Singh, a parent and teacher, is of the view, “The lesson to be taught to parents and teachers is that not be so pushy. Life, after all, is about a lot more than just a board exam.”
Cause for worry
- Suicidal thoughts (thinking, writing, drawing or talking about suicide, death, dying or the afterlife)
- Lack of a sense of purpose in life.
- Increased withdrawal from family, friends, school and college, Poor grades may be a sign that the child is withdrawing at school.
- Lack of interest in favourite activities.
- Reckless or risk-taking behaviour.
- Changed eating or sleeping patterns – such as being unable to sleep or sleeping all the time.
- Deep feelings of grief, uncontrolled anger, anxiety, shame, hopelessness or guilt.