Pressure to perform well in exams, fear of results, academic stress, and incidents like ragging remain the main cause of student suicides across the country. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report titled ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India’, in the year 2021, more than 13,000 students in India lost their lives. This means that on average, over 35 students die by suicide every day.
Observing the increasing trend of student suicides, the Ministry of Education has introduced a new initiative called ‘Umeed’ (Hope). The ‘Umeed’ draft guidelines emphasise the idea that every child matters. The guidelines highlight that when students struggle with personal and social challenges, they may experience feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction, hopelessness, despair, mood swings, and, in severe cases, thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
According to Sujata Kshirsagar, Chairperson of Career Launchers, students often suffer from mental health issues due to the competitive environment in such institutions. In this context, ‘Umeed’ is a commendable step.
Education is not just about textbooks but also about improving the overall well-being of the students.
The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education can work towards creating a safe and more supportive educational environment (education ecosystem). Statistics indicate a continuous increase in student suicides.
In 2021, more than 13,000 cases were reported, which is 4.5 per cent higher than the 12,526 deaths recorded in 2020.
What is alarming is that out of the reported 10,732 suicides, 864 were due to the fear of failing in exams.
Commenting on the situation, Arul Malaviya, Founder of JAMIT, said that India is currently grappling with suicide cases. The main causes are the pressure of academics and unrealistic expectations from parents or teachers.
All these factors contribute to feelings of despair and constant sadness among students. These guidelines, by involving teachers, school staff, students, and their families, will actively work towards addressing this challenge.
In its 16-page draft, the Ministry of Education has mentioned aspects that can push students towards suicide.
The guidelines advise schools to immediately pay attention to students who exhibit signs of pressure and risk factors. They emphasise the need to dispel myths and rumuors surrounding suicide.
The Ministry emphasises that suicide prevention is a collective effort that involves schools, parents, and the community. It requires understanding children’s feelings, actions, and behaviours. It is essential to ensure that students are not subjected to any form of academic pressure or bullying, be it from family, friends, or anyone else.
Monica Malhotra Kandhari, Managing Director of MBD AASOKA, said that in recent years, the mental health of our students has been a significant concern. Student suicides are a tragedy for us.
It is time to identify this problem.
Kandhari said: “We are deeply concerned about the emotional and psychological well-being of young people. ‘Umeed’ guidelines will promote a compassionate perspective to support students during times of stress and place importance on open and effective communication.'