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‘We didn’t do enough’ — AIIMS faculty and students say after suicides by doctors

Since 5 June, AIIMS has seen six suicides — 3 of them were doctors. Resident doctors say mental health issues can compound continuous academic pressure.

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New Delhi: Over the last two months, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the national capital has seen six suicides, including that of three doctors.

The latest case came to light Friday when the decomposed body of Dr Mohit Singhla, a 40-year-old research officer of paediatrics, was retrieved by the police from his Gautam Nagar home after neighbours complained of foul smell.

The prestigious medical institute has dealt with student suicides on a regular basis over the years, but the recent spate of deaths — between 5 June and 14 August — amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic has sounded the alarm among students and faculty.

Earlier this week, the institute’s faculty association wrote to AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, saying there was a “need to collectively think and work to provide an enabling environment for the students to prosper”.

“We have appealed to the administration asking them to make this their top priority,” Dr Rakesh Yadav, president of the association, told ThePrint. “Suicide is a multi-factoral problem, and it’s difficult to say what’s causing this string of suicides. It’s an indication that we’ve failed somewhere.”

Since June, three patients admitted to AIIMS — including journalist Tarun Sisodia — also died by suicide on the premises, for unknown reasons.


Also read: After month-long downward Covid trend, Delhi sees worrying rise in cases, hospitalisations


Spate of suicides

Mohit Singhla was a 1998 AIIMS topper who took on the job of a research officer in the paediatrics department. His interests were in tuberculosis and HIV. 

In his alleged suicide note, he wrote, “What will I do living till I am 60-70 years old,” adding that he was taking his life out of choice as he “cannot hide his mental state any longer”.

The Delhi Police is verifying the authenticity of the note. 

“He was a very nice man. Most people in AIIMS are too busy to help out, but if you ever needed help with a research project he would volunteer to help,” a junior resident from the paediatrics department, who didn’t wish to be named, told ThePrint. “It’s terribly sad. He didn’t let on that he had a mental health problem.”

Singhla’s death follows that of a 22-year-old student, Vikas G., who allegedly jumped off a roof on 10 August. Vikas had been admitted to the psychiatry ward earlier and was under treatment for a mental health issue. 

Earlier, a resident doctor, Anurag Kumar, died by suicide. He was also receiving treatment at the psychiatry department. 

“They were both being strictly monitored. Despite that, they managed to take the step. It means we didn’t do enough, and we need to work to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We don’t know what’s causing this sudden spurt — it’s difficult to say,” Adarsh Pratap Singh, president of the Resident Doctors Association, told ThePrint. 

On 19 April, a female Dalit resident doctor of dentistry attempted suicide allegedly because she faced caste-based discrimination at the hands of a senior doctor.

Kumar had written a blog post about his battles with depression before he jumped to his death on 10 July — exactly a month before Vikas G., who was also from a Dalit community, ended his life. 


Also read: Lav Agarwal, face of Modi govt’s Covid fight, himself tests positive for coronavirus


Issues at AIIMS

ThePrint spoke to a number of doctors at the institute, and all of them said the pressure to perform can be immense. 

“It can be a lot of pressure because everyone who comes is a bright student. There is continuous academic pressure when you join AIIMS, so it is easy to be overwhelmed. This can be compounded by their mental illness, if they have any,” said Singh. 

A senior resident at psychiatry department, who didn’t wish to be named, said the pressure was even more if students are from minority backgrounds, or if they are not from Delhi.

“There have been many complaints about caste-based discrimination, use of language, and even nepotism, but nothing meaningful has come out of it. People who come from outside have a particularly difficult time adjusting to this environment,” he said.

“These issues need to be systematically addressed. Issuing a statement is not enough,” he added.

Complaints of caste-based harassment and suicide have remained an issue for AIIMS even in the past. Apart from such cases, the institute reportedly sees at least one suicide a year.

In view of the pandemic, the institute has set up a mental health helpline for its doctors.


Also read: Some Covid-19 antibodies could last in recovered patients for at least 6 months, study finds


 

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Casteism is a brutal reality.It reflects in every sphere of life in our society, somewhere in visible form but mostly latent in so called advanced societies.Only persons at receiving ends can tell the truth,not others.As others can’t understand the proportionate dominance prevalent even in present & future society.

  2. I have made a research document which tackles the mental health issue with a scientific approach, if you’d like it please comment !

  3. The problem with general category people is their ignorance about the reality of our country.. they think everything should be merit based. I would like them to come out of their glamorous city and visit rural and border regions of our country, see their living condition and empathize.. people who framed constitution and stood for reservation were not fool and understood the vast gap between rural and urban India and the discrimination inflicted by caste system. Unlike western world our country is not socially equal society and india is not only about delhi mumbai or other big cities..when this is a way to uplift all section of the society why do people have problem?

    • You mean to say, all SC/ST people are living in villages and border areas and all so-called GC are living in cities, are well off with highly educated parents and wealth? This is the kind of fake baseless theories that are invented and circulated. Consider Delhi, which is basically a cosmopolitan place. Where are SC.ST of Delhi living.? In slums, jhuggis? In 75 yrs crores of SC/ST have come up in life thru jobs/professional education. Are they still living in villages?

      In Hathras case, the media was shouting about so-called UC domination in villages. Now u are saying that SC/ST are living in villages. Then how UC domination is possible in villages? In every city, town, village there are govt offices which pay equal salaries and everywhere SC/ST are employed. Are their children not receiving college education? Those getting college education are they not getting employment and salaries? Are their children not competing in prof. exams? There are crores of GC people who are quite poor and uneducated. The real problem India is facing is fake news and casteist news peddling by websites like the Print. In this article it is mentioned that two suicide victims were SC. What is the relevance? Is it ok if other caste people commit suicide? Why their caste is not mentioned? It is to create fake history that their caste his hidden, except when they commit crimes.

  4. Never thought we will ever be able to see the caste discrimination at aiims
    It’s not good coz reservation was the need of past and is also at present, coz many of the dalit aren’t educated till now but can do something to empower themselves and the community if got a chance

  5. Precious lives being lost. Mental health should be the foremost concern for allconcerned. Never underestimate the power of mind to construct or destruct.

  6. Don’t please stick to the caste . The reason behind it may be peer pressure on academic or some other reason. Today the students are facing lots of problems in maintaining their mental health.

  7. All Medical institutes are suffering because of Bullying, in which vertical bullying is more prominent.
    I don’t know why no body speaks about it.
    Yelling and commenting on personalities is a very common phenomenon in medical colleges especially in Premiar institutes.
    It is independent of any biases.

  8. U guys never leave an opportunity to make everything a caste based issue, and do dalit lives matter more than others? Looks like it, as u specifically mentioned their caste. Cheap journalism

    • All lives matter. However here specifically caste based discrimination was observed, that’s why it has been specified. If you can’t do anything at all, then being humble and sensitive for issue is the most easiest job for you.

    • replying to akshay who has a Cheap mentality probably because of his upbringing environment that he cant even accept facts which are against his liking.
      Judge your life and yourself before judging something else.
      The non medical world dont even know M of Medical science.
      Aur discrimination karne wala like you will never say that discrimination exist.
      You guys are the epitome of hypocrisy.
      Pehle kisi ke sath bura karo aur phir jab unhe kisi tarah ki help mile to use criticize karo.

    • Death has no reservations be caste creed status it seems everyone with same league. Its living person who is at his best to choose. Be it a natural or suicidal. I say suicide is the cowards way. No respect for coward. Restrain yourself from committing suicide. Someone is waiti6for you. Be mother father or some one else. My country needs you.

  9. This is the main issue – People do not let others know they have mental issues due to the extreme taboo and stigma attached to it. Talking about mental health won’t happen on paper or social media. It requires a huge societal shift and years of sustained efforts especially in schools since the time people hit adolescence.

  10. They do not mention the fact that people belonging to minorities have a lower merit than general category students and have trouble on academics
    Instead they blame Their performance on discrimination while infact the students can’t cope with studies and many deserving candidates also don’t get the seat.

    • Yes they have low merits but not all the students from dalits have low merits and have troubles from academic … in many big institutions they are bullied and discriminated because of their cast and sometimes they bullied too much that they unable to focus and studies and commit suicide if thay can’t take it anymore of bullying… it happens in almost all the institutions

  11. One of the poorest quality of journalism comes from the print. Whatever may be the news, it invariably adds caste angle to it? Does a dalit death has more weightage than death of a general category person?

  12. No matter whats the issue with suicide but the print will always find a caste based discrimination in every aspect of life.

    • Isn’t that the truth , people do get beheld by caste ,they get tagged and bullies if they get in via reservation.

  13. Rapidly changing work environment and alot of work pressure is affecting many sectors. Healthcare sector is one of them especially there is alot of workload on every healthcare worker in tertiarry helathcare units. In my opinon, with this chaos going around the globe, its time to change gradually and adopt mental helathcare. Either every sector should adopt mental healthcare in their work culture and organize seminars or one on one counselling sessions atleast once a month. Also i would like to add that print media should address not only those who are at top in the hierarchy, but also other workers who go through alot and are in middle or lower order in hierarchy in their respective wrokplace. So that others viewers of your post can be relate to it. By doing so people can become sensitive about these people too.

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