New Delhi: Looking to prevent suicides among students in higher education institutions and improve their mental well-being, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has come up with a counselling plan for the IITs as well as other institutes, ThePrint has learnt.
To enable students in the high-pressure environment of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the ministry has asked all IITs to open wellness centres and seek the services of professional counsellors on a mandatory basis, said a senior ministry official.
The decision was conveyed to all the premier technology institutes at the IIT Council meet that concluded last week, said the official, who didn’t want to be named.
“Yes, the matter was discussed at the IIT Council meet and all the IITs have been asked to make sure that they have wellness centres and professional counsellors,” the official, who was present at the meeting, told ThePrint.
A number of IITs — Delhi, Mumbai and Madras for example — currently have wellness centres. But the ministry has now mandated this for all the 23 IITs, including the new ones.
For other higher education institutions across the country, the HRD ministry is planning to involve over 300 counsellors for an online mechanism. It is also engaging private partners who could provide counselling sessions to students, said the official.
The scheme is likely to be rolled out by November, he said.
Between 2014 and 2016, as many as 26,467 students committed suicide in the country, according to government statistics.
How the plan came about
The HRD ministry’s move comes over a month after an IIT-Hyderabad student committed suicide, leaving behind an eight-page suicide note in which he blamed academic pressure for taking the extreme step.
Following the incident, the ministry constituted an internal committee comprising members from the IITs to suggest steps to prevent suicides on campus. The committee suggested that the institutes need to take definitive steps to prevent student suicides.
“Students come to IITs from all kinds of background — some are not able to cope up with the academic pressure, some are from Hindi medium (schools) and are unable to deal with the change in language and then go into depression,” an IIT-Delhi professor told ThePrint.
“They already come from a high pressure environment — first, coaching classes, the pressure to crack (entrance test) JEE Mains, then advanced, and then finally getting into an IIT puts more pressure on them,” said the professor, who did not wish to be named.
He added, “To deal with such situations, it’s necessary that IITs provide counselling to students. Although IIT-Delhi is already doing that, there may be some others who do not have professional counsellors.”
In an emailed response to ThePrint, Professor S.M. Sivakumar, Dean (Students) at IIT-Madras, said his institute has a robust mechanism for counselling already in place. It already has a wellness centre facility and professional counsellors.
IIT-Madras also has anonymous LGBTQ groups, faculty mentors, residential wardens and student groups to extend help to those who might need it, added Sivakumar.
In its directions, the ministry has also asked institutes to seek the help of faculty members in identifying students who may need help and then send them for counselling.