Everyone thinks that the moment a child gets admission to an IIT, he has acquired a passport to a super successful life. But in reality, that admission is just the beginning of a long battle and very arduous four years ahead. Getting into IIT is much easier compared to the life they sign up for at IIT.
The studying, the peer pressure, the pressure to get the best campus job, the pressure is all around and all the time. IIT Kharagpur, since January this year, has reported 3 cases of suicide where students simply gave up their life as they simply could not handle the stress.
Depression, anxiety and even personal disorder are some of the psychological changes which happen to children enrolling there. Not everyone is strong mentally which is why some can handle it and some cannot. Students are getting more and more isolated, lost in their world of studies ad technologies, hardly interacting with fellow students. This only perpetuates the loneliness and pressure, manifesting into serious depression or other mental ailments. And given the taboo we have in India about even talking about psychological illness, the child simply does not know where to seek help.
IIT Kharagpur is now taking some positive to try and correct the situation. Recognising the problem is itself half the problem solved. To tackle loneliness, it has taken to switching off electricity for some time, at random times and days. This gets students out of their rooms and it is found they actually start talking to each other. This small step helps them connect when they take a 10-minute coffee or tea break. The college is in the process of installing vending machines for free tea and coffee.
Other efforts include a programme for parents with psychiatric professionals, courses on happiness mental well-being, and reaching out to alumni who faced depression during their college days. The college says that parents almost always ask about job prospects and pay packets and never about mental happiness for their child. It plans to change that perspective through counselling for parents too. IIT Kharagpur has also decided to collaborate with an agency to identify the strength of students instead of their weaknesses. It is even planning to get some of its alumni to connect with students about how they dealt with depression.
Isn’t this something which all schools and colleges across India should do? Training a child to be happy is more pertinent that merely teaching him/her to be successful.