Depression and Suicide – What are Indian students going through?

Every hour, a student in India takes his own life. What can possibly be so wrong with our educational system? Education is extremely important and our institutes not only impart education, but they also prepare young minds for the social challenges they would come across in the future.

Students and Mental Disorders:

Unfortunately, a large number of educational institutions and teachers yet have to learn and wrap their head around the fact that mental issues actually exist and these are causing students severe depression and even losing their lives as well. About 12% of Indian students between the ages of 4 and 16 suffer from different mental disorders. With the passage of time, psychological concerns are increasing in Indian children particularly suicides and behavioral issues. 20% of them show symptoms of mental disorders out of which, 2-5% have serious issues like bi-polar disorders or autism.

Factors behind Depression:

Numerous factors of college life lead to depression. A large number of students are not yet ready for university lives. Majority of Indian students are in deep debt. Compared to the previous generation, they have fewer expectations of getting a good job.

Some other factors are also behind the students’ depression such as poor eating habits, not having an active and healthy exercise schedule. Studies come along with various difficulties of their own such as pressure to find a suitable job after completion, financial problems. Failed relationships is another big reason for students to leave college or end their life. Sadly, depression has become one of the leading cause of death among Indian students.

A large number of people deny it altogether or are uninformed of this condition. More often than not, depression is mistaken for pessimism and sadness. And people take it as just a low point of their lives. If you would research, you will come across an abundance of untreated and undiagnosed depression cases. India has a population of 57 million people. According to WHO about 18% of the global estimate suffers from depression.

It is important to know that both children and young adults happen to have intricate emotional eco-systems which are easily affected due to emotional, behavioral, and mental or learning disorders which include ADHD, Autism, intellectual disability, bipolar disorder, disruptive behavior, anxiety, and depression.

Mental concerns are also caused because of environmental challenges like body shaming, emotional issues, family/financial issues, hormonal changes, low self-esteem, sexual or religious discrimination, and even substance addiction.

Parental Pressure:

Everyone is aware of how Indian parents wish and sometimes force their children to live out their dreams. There is a lot of stress and pressure from the parents to perform well in exams. Sometimes this stress gets a bit too much to handle and can potentially affect a child’s mental health.

Young Love:

Relationships are also an integral part of a student’s life. In many cases, a breakup is a reason behind feeling depressed. Some sensitive youngsters just cannot cope with the idea of losing someone they thought to be ‘the one’ for them. Dealing with a fresh breakup along with the various pressures of studies is another leading reason for depression in Indian students. Breakups lead to feelings such as trouble sleeping, intrusive thoughts and these thoughts often get out of control.

About 43% of students have trouble in sleeping issues in the months after a breakup. Students become distressed, insomniac following a breakup and those who suffered neglect or abuse in their childhood have a harder time in getting over their exes. These people tend to have an insecure attachment problem and feel more betrayed.

In order to heal a broken heart after a breakup, there are various therapies one could opt for. These include interpersonal therapy, complicated grief therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Risks and Consequences of Depression:

It is also important to note that depressed students are more likely to develop problems like drugs and alcohol. Those already suffering from depression are more susceptible to smoking marijuana, binge drinking and engage in reckless behavior to deal with whatever emotional issues they were facing.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression in College Students:

Some of the most common signals that indicate a person having suicidal thoughts are:

  • Constant mood swings
  • Loss of interest in previous hobbies and activities
  • Talking about self-harm and suicide
  • Withdrawal into own self
  • Possible drug or substance use

College is one of the most important parts of one’s educational journey. At the same time, it is also a stressful environment for most of the young people. Therefore, it is extremely important for both family, friends, and faculty to get involved the moment they suspect any student suffering from depressive or suicidal thoughts.

In most cases, students themselves are hesitant in telling the truth and seek help. We all are aware of the many social stigmas linked to depression. An evaluation of mental health should be conducted that covers a student’s school performance, developmental and family history along with self-harming behavior if any. Then, an at-risk plan should be formed before the treatment plan.

The best treatments for college-going students suffering from depression are a mix of talk therapies and antidepressant medication such as interpersonal psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Depressed students could also benefit greatly from exercise as it makes one feel energized and eating a healthy diet. A good health brings quite positive change both in physical and mental health.

Role of Parents, Teachers, and Society:

In India, it is quite a normal practice for Indian parents to go right into a denial mode if their child’s mental health comes up. They downright deny its existence or refuse to believe that their child could possibly be going through mental health problems. This attitude needs to go. The alarming stats of how every hour a college student takes his own life say a lot. Its time Indian parents realize how fragile mental health is and they should take up a proactive attitude in judging it. To ensure a healthy mental and emotional well-being of children, society should take sincere measures to link the gap in education sector regarding mental health.

Similarly, a teacher should also be able to recognize patterns and symptoms of mental issues. Teachers, before scolding or punishing a child for disruptive behavior could use their skills to analyze and determine the reasons behind such behavior of a student. Moreover, educational institutions need to introduce psychological counseling programs so that students can get help while dealing with their issues in a comfortable and confidential environment.

It is crucial to understand that every child possesses a different coping mechanism. Therefore, it is essential that these counseling programs be flexible and cater to every child’s individual need. And if the need arises, the student should be referred to a mental health professional so that they can intervene timely and avoid any mishap. When depression is left undiagnosed for prolong period of time, it leads to feelings to extreme guilt, sadness, loss of interest along with withdrawal into self. This could ultimately end in suicide.

According to Dr. Achal Bhagat, a senior consultant from Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, apart from psychological factors, sociological factors like rigid parameters of success, a culture that doesn’t accept diversity, increased social isolation and more urbanization are some of the prominent reasons of increasing suicide rates in India.

A competitive environment and peer pressure, have been around for a long time but the protective family factors have greatly reduced in the recent years leading to people live more isolated lives. Suicide happens to be an advanced level of depression spectrum, anyone showing even the slightest tendency to self-harm or suicide should receive urgent medical help.