Social pressures, unrealistic family expectations drive students to suicide


SUNDAY Special

 Increasing pressure from society and expectations of family are the major reasons behind the alarming rise in suicide cases among young students, said experts.

There has been a jump in student suicide rates in India in the recent years. According to statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), over 13,000 student suicides happened in 2021, a steep rise from 12,500 in 2020.

“The root causes of this alarming suicide trend primarily lies in the mounting pressure from societal and familial expectations, rather than solely economic factors. The perpetual state of fear and anxiety that students experience due to intense competition and academic concerns often goes unnoticed, pushing them towards a distressing mental state,” Dr Rahul Rai Kakkar, Clinical Psychology, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram, said. 

“Excessive stress of competitive examinations, dejections despite hard work, gross mismatch between large number of aspirants and small number of seats; relationship stress, disturbed lifestyle, family distress; underlying depression, dejection, feelings of insecurity, and feeling threatened — are the reasons that drive students to take the extreme step,” added Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Hospital, Saket.

(STUDENT PACKAGE) Social pressures, unrealistic family expectations drive students to suicide

Recent months have seen rising cases of student suicides in prestigious institutions such as IITs and coaching hubs like Kota, which as per the experts “are indicative of a deep-seated crisis within the Indian youth”. 

“The unchecked pressure from society and families to excel academically fosters an environment where anxiety thrives. The internalisation of this pressure leads to a perpetual state of distress, which becomes normalised for the students,” Kakkar said. 

“The primary underlying cause of high suicide rates among students is undoubtedly the burden of expectations. Students face immense pressure, starting with the anticipation surrounding entrance exams even before their academic journey begins,” Dr Satish Kumar C.R., Consultant – Clinical Psychology, Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru, told IANS. 

He also blamed the skyrocketing cost of education; the pervasive influence of peer pressure and the need to meet social norms. Some students also suffer from suicidal tendency due to past traumatic events.

Dr Prashant Goyal, Senior Consultant, Psychiatry, at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, New Delhi, called for an urgent societal shift in the education sector.

“The relentless competition and undue fixation on performance have metamorphosed educational institutions into pressure chambers for young minds. Acknowledging the intrinsic link between mental health and academic success is crucial,” he said. 

Goyal also called for educational institutions to foster a nurturing environment where students can candidly discuss fears and access professional counselling. Neglecting this holistic approach will further erode our youth’s mental health, he said.

“In severe cases, where students exhibit signs of clinical mental health disorders, psychiatric intervention might be necessary. Proper diagnosis and treatment, which could include therapy, medication, or a combination, should be considered,” Kakkar said.