To deal with the growing concerns over student deaths by suicide, the The Council of Indian Institutes of Technology, or IIT Council, in a meeting at IIT Bhubaneswar recently decided to appoint at least one mental health counsellor on every campus. The meeting laid emphasis on the requirement for a robust grievance redressal system, reducing pressure and laid emphasis on the importance of reducing fear of failure and rejection among students. It recognised the need to increase psychological counselling services.

The issue of mental health and discrimination gaining momentum shows that the recent campus protests carried out by various student bodies demanding interventions by authorities have had an impact.

Another reason behind this is the report presented in Rajya Sabha by the Ministry of Education that thirty-three students have died as they committed suicide across the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) since 2018.

The latest statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveal that the burden of deaths by suicide has increased by 7.2 per cent from 2020. a total of 1,64,033 individuals have died by suicide in 2021.

The access to mental health support services is one of the reasons that needs to be addressed along with the stigma related to mental health because as per the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, we have only 0.75 psychiatrists for every 100,000 patients in India while the required ratio is 3 to 100,000 quoted a 2019 report from the journal.

If we compare this to Germany, research suggests that in 2017, there were more than 80,000 psychiatrists in the European Union (EU). The highest number was in Germany which had 27 psychiatrists per 100 000 inhabitants.

Kartik Brundavan, a 5th year LLB student from Delhi said, “My mental health was severely impacted when I moved from grade 10 to 11 because that was a transitional phase and many of my friends moved to different cities. I could not deal with the fact that they were not with me anymore. But to help me deal with it, there was no mental health expert present in the school campus. There is no mental health expert present in my college either”.

A 27-year-old media professional from Dehradun on the condition of anonymity said, “I worked with a media organisation where people were of the view that an employee’s mental health should not have an impact on their work.”

Harmandeep Chugh, a Textile Engineering alumnus of DKTE Society’s Textile and Engineering Institute, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, said, “There was no mental health support on our campus and everyone may not be able to deal with the pressures of the coursework. Neither did the faculty ever emphasise on mental health. I feel this is a very big shortcoming.”

Arshdeep Singh, a 20-year-old textile engineering student from the same institute was of the view that he may not be very comfortable discussing his mental health issues with his parents, simply because they might not be able to relate with it. He clarifies that it is not their fault but it is something that they have simply not faced till now.

Amogh Arora, who pursued his graduation from a renowned college in Delhi said, “There was no mental health support available in the college where I studied, this was the situation back in 2016. In such a case, dependence on external resources is the only option people have.” He even pointed out that there was no support available at a campus in Hyderabad from where he pursued his Masters in 2018.

However, as an educator at The Shri Ram School in Gurugram, he says there are adequate facilities available and the students very conveniently approach the facility at present.

Dr.Sonia Kapur, Assistant Professor at the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar and a Clinical and Sports Psychologist said, “Psychology today is an equally popular course but the problem is the loopholes in recruitment opportunities. We need to assess if a setting requires a counsellor or a psychologist. In most of the situations, fresh graduates are recruited while the need is of a professional with a higher qualification.”

Tarang Kaur, a Developmental Therapist at Children First Mental Health Institute in Delhi who studied psychology in the capital said, “We had support groups on the campus and the availability of counsellors on the campus was not known to the students. Another thing is the popularity of psychology as a course, many people are still hesitant to opt for it because the pay scales are relatively low.”