Following A suicide and an attempted suicide on its campus, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi is considering starting free online counselling from the next semester. The institute is in talks with a service provider for the same, officials said, adding that it would be in addition to its existing counselling services. According to officials, suicidal tendencies could be a result of stress due to academic pressure. On May 30, PhD scholar Manjula Devak was found hanging in her room. The IIT Director, however, had said cited “personal problems” as the reason. In March, a first year student had allegedly jumped from the hostel building, but survived. Some peers had alleged it was due to academic stress.
Speaking about the initiative, Associate Dean, Student Welfare Sangeeta Kohli said, “We currently have more than 1,000 students attending counselling sessions and just three counsellors. They sit five days a week from 9.30 am to 5 pm and their schedules are packed. We’re in talks to start online counselling from the next semester. This would help in reaching out to more students, since many don’t come because of the stigma attached with seeking psychological help.” She said the institute had taken inspiration from IIT-Madras — which was the first to start such a service among the IITs — through a tie up with YourDOST, an emotional wellness platform. She said, if finalised, the service would give students the option to chat online with therapists.
Dean, Students Affairs, T R Sreekrishnan said the number of students seeking counselling has been “consistently growing” in the last few years. Kohli said first year students, in particular, found it difficult to handle the academic pressure. “Students work very hard to get into IIT, and then they want to relax. They don’t realise that they need to at least keep some minimum pace (to keep up)… There is so much freedom in the hostels that suddenly they’re not able to handle it,” she said.
“In the first semester, particularly, many of them don’t know how to handle it. Once they don’t perform well, they start feeling the pressure… They try to escape this mental stress because they don’t know how to handle it. Some stop attending classes… The situation gets worse and stress builds up. It becomes a vicious circle,” Kohli added. The Dean also pointed out that “overindulgence” in extra-curricular activities by some students could also cause problems. “There are so many extra-curricular activities… So they start focusing too much on that and start neglecting academics,” he said.