IISc deaths raise concerns for student mental well-being during Covid-19 crisis
The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) campus has witnessed six suspected suicide cases since last year, raising concerns over the mental well-being of hosts. The first institute even set up an on-campus wellness center in 2020 to address psychological issues facing teachers and students, but two new deaths last week rocked the campus community again.
When contacted, most of the students said they did not seek help from the wellness center, while some also suggested that the administration of the institute had been tough on them during the pandemic.
Two students, Rishabraj Mesharam (21), an undergraduate student from Gwalior, and Rajarshi Bhattacharaya (27), a doctoral student from Kolkata, are believed to have died by suicide within days last week. In March, Randheer Kumar, a 34-year-old doctoral student from Bihar, committed suicide, followed by undergraduate student Rohan M (21) in April.
âOver the past year, the administration has been very tough on us. Students have been expelled from laboratories by security personnel for fragile reasons. We protested against the administration’s rigid guidelines during the pandemic. We had virtually no interaction on campus and it took a toll on the mental health of the students, âsaid Abhishek (name changed), an IISc student.
âMost students take a long time to open up. While contacting wellness centers is not a problem, management should also think about resolving issues that are affecting the mental health of students. We have tried to reason this with the institute in the past. The situation is improving now, âhe added.
âMost of us stay away from our families. Additionally, we don’t have anyone to share our issues with on campus due to Covid-19 protocols. Management turned a blind eye to our problems. The academic pressure is extreme and the pandemic has exacerbated our problems. Many students take antidepressants but are uncomfortable contacting the wellness center. The IISc campus has been transformed into a sort of military camp. It shouldn’t have happened, âsaid another student, Devaraj (name changed).
IISc alumnus Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel posted a post on LinkedIn highlighting the mental health issues plaguing the IISc campus.
âI ask all members past and present to come together to find a solution to prevent suicides. Just two days after a student lost his life, another UG student also chose deathâ¦ I think it’s our responsibility to help the studentsâ¦ âshe said in his message.
âThe IISc has lost nearly 10 students from the end of 2019 to dateâ¦ My sincere request to all alumni, whether in India or abroad, to come together to formulate a solution (for the prevention of suicides ), âShe added.
In April, a survey was conducted to determine the mental well-being of students on campus, but only 1,000 of 4,500 students responded.
The IISc in a statement expressed condolences for the deaths and said the mental health and well-being of students is of critical importance, especially given the current Covid-19 situation.
âThere are two consultant psychologists available on campus every working day and on Saturdays for the campus community. In addition, we also have two consultant psychiatrists, who visit the health center twice a week. Four Wellness Coordinators trained in psychosocial interventions and other skills are available on campus every working day and on Saturdays for the campus community. In addition, we are launching a new initiative on training students to research and identify potential problems early on, so that support resources can be accessed in a timely manner, âthe Deputy Registrar and Public Relations Officer of the ‘IISc, Veerana Kammar, mentioned.
âThe pandemic has dramatically disrupted research and teaching timelines, and we realize this has put additional strain on students. Online education has been a challenge for students and faculty members; they cannot replace traditional long-term courses. We will resume physical classes as soon as we know we can do so without compromising the health and safety of our students and teachers. We therefore strongly urged those who are having difficulty contacting anyone – their classmates, their department head or members of the wellness committee. We have also asked all members of the IISc community to check their friends, classmates and colleagues whenever they can, âthe IISc said in an official statement following the two recent deaths.
Dr M Manjula, professor, consultant, Behavioral Medicine Unit, NIMHANS Department of Clinical Psychology, told Indianexpress.com that she does not believe the number of suicides has increased during the pandemic, but added that he There was an increase in cases of distress across age, gender and occupational groups.
âThe most commonly reported symptoms are stress, anxiety and depression, a normal response to an acute stressful situation such as Covid-19. I have noticed that people with pre-existing mental health issues experience more distress. The Covid-19 pandemic crisis has resulted in several challenges on the personal, social, financial, interpersonal, family and professional / academic levels. It affected everyone to varying degrees. In addition, meeting the mental health care needs of the large population has become a difficult task, âsaid Dr Manjula.
She added that several students were unsure of their exams, their results and that there were uncertainties about their future academic and professional goals.