September 9, 2023
10th September is observed as ‘Suicide Prevention Day’ THEME for 2023: Creating Hope through Action
About 800,000 people globally commit suicide each year, with INDIA accounting for 20% of those suicides. Over 1,64,000 deaths due to suicides were recorded in India in 2021; this works out to a suicide rate of 12 per 100,000 or 450 suicides a day, with labourers, farmers, students and housewives accounting for most of the suicides. According to NCRB Data, in 2020, 12,526 students died by suicide in India, while in 2021, the number rose to 13,089.
In this article, I wish to focus on ‘student’ suicides.
According to The World Health Organization, SUICIDE is an emerging and serious public health issue in India
As per a study by Sher Shah - Major causes of student suicide were low self-esteem, a lack of self-confidence, a lack of patience, failure in an exam, and a mental health problem. The findings also indicate that one problem was common among all suicide survivors, and that was parental pressure due to low academic marks.
There are several ‘Suicide Prevention Lifelines’ in India, including in Mangalore run by Susheg Trust. There is one important point to remember – Those who are ‘DEBATING’ whether to commit suicide or not, contact the Helplines but those who are ‘DETERMINED’ to commit suicide do not contact the helplines – they are only debating about the method to end their life.
How to reach out to the ‘Determined’ group? We know that major reasons are – Failure in examinations or Failure to join the profession of their choice or the choice of their parents.
Let us look at some examples:
*Exam Failures “19 students commit suicide within a week since Telangana intermediate results were announced in April 2019”. 9.74 lakh appeared for the exam of whom 3.28 lakh were declared FAILED (33.6%)
The CM of Telengana said "Failing in examination does not amount to failing in life. Life is precious. Even if one fails in the examination, there will be plenty of opportunities."
This is the message that should go out from every school, college and educational institution; from every teacher, principal and management. Instead we function as if “Doing well in an Examination” is the be-all and end-all of Education.
PS – In the Re-Evaluation, some of the 19 students who committed suicide were declared “PASSED”!!
**The NEET Failures “S Jegadeeswaran (19) was a NEET aspirant, and hung himself having flunked the NEET examination twice. He wanted to be a doctor. Later, unable to deal with the grief over his son's death, his father hung himself at his residence the next day”
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin passionately appealed to NEET aspirants not to harbour any suicidal tendencies but face life with self-confidence. The Chief Minister said “Let their deaths be the last on the altar of NEET".
The Solution – Proper ‘Career Guidance’ to students and parents from Class-8 onwards. The students should have the benefit of ”Aptitude” tests and provided with a wide choice of professional ‘streams’ and ‘sub-streams’ (75-100 choices!).
Unless the “Root” causes of student suicides are tackled through Examination Reforms and Highly specialized ‘Aptitude & Career Guidance’, at all education institutions, Suicides will continue, thereby precious lives being lost.
I conclude with the statement of Bharat Ratna Dr CNR Rao, one of the greatest Educationist of India “We have an EXAMINATION System but not an EDUCATION system. When will our young people stop taking exams and do something worthwhile? It is important to relook at the entire examination system” and may I add “Prevent Student Suicides and ensure that all our Youth Live and function as instruments of CHANGE”.