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The Hindu
The Hindu
Vibha Attri, Sandeep Shastri, Abhinav Pankaj Borbora, Sanjay Kumar CSDS

Only 3% of Kota’s students have visited a mental health professional | Data

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the share of students who died by suicide in India in 2021 was 8% of the total number of deaths by suicide. While a number of reasons push students towards this extreme step, one major reason is academic pressure.

Table 1 | During your stay in Kota, have you ever thought of hurting yourself or ending your life?

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It is relevant to record that 25 students have already taken their lives this year in Kota, one of India’s largest coaching hubs, which prepares students for the NEET and JEE exams. This is the highest number of student suicides that the town in Rajasthan has seen. What is also deeply concerning is that among those who are currently studying in Kota, 7% have considered ending their life at least once (Table 1). This was one of the findings of a study conducted recently by Lokniti-CSDS to understand, among other things, the impact of students’ anxieties on their mental health. This is the final data point of the three-part sseries on students in Kota.

Different kinds of pressures

According to our findings, many students think that clearing the NEET or JEE exams is crucial for securing a better life. While this belief pushes aspirants to study hard, the possibility of their not clearing these exams does impact their mental health. This is perhaps why close to two in every 10 students studying in Kota often suffer from thoughts linked to the potential consequences of under-performing in exams. Over one-third experience such thoughts sometimes, while two of every 10 said that they do so rarely.

Those around these students also contribute to such anxieties. Nearly one in 10 students experiences parental pressure often while in Kota. Another one-fourth go through this from time to time. The number of girls who experience this pressure is slightly higher than the number of boys. Students with immediate family members who studied in Kota before them also face this pressure more: 9% said that they are often subjected to such pressures and 29% said that they experience it sometimes. Among those who do not have such relatives, 6% often face family pressure and one-fourth face it sometimes.

Finances can be a source of stress too: 6% often feel financial pressure while another one-fourth feel the pressure sometimes. A heightened sense of competition also affects students at times: 4% said that they often experience peer pressure and another two in every 10 said that they experience it from time to time.

With all these pressures, students may feel that the people around them are unable to relate to them. This could push them to retreat into a shell. This perhaps explains why 53% of students in Kota experience loneliness from time to time.

Table 2 | While living in Kota for coaching how often do you feel stressed?

All these pressures take a heavy toll on students. Nearly half (46%) of them feel stressed from time to time while 12% reported feeling stressed often (Table 2).

Coping mechanisms

Table 3 | What do you normally do when you are extremely stressed?

Students try to cope with these pressures in various ways. Nearly half of them (49%) talk to their family and friends when they are extremely stressed. This shows that family and friends can very well be a source of comfort to students. Four in 10 watch online videos, television, or listen to music to relax. Over three in 10 take a stroll, exercise, or meditate to combat stress (Table 3) . Close to half the students (46%) choose to sleep when they feel stressed. However, there is more to this habit: of them, 16% use sleep-related medication from time to time.

Some students also try to cope with stress in ways which can prove detrimental. Among them, 13% resume studying when they are stressed. While this might help them deal with the immediate anxiety of being unprepared for an exam, it could be counterproductive in the long run. There are also 5% who turn to smoking and 2% who drink to fight stress.

Impact on mental health

All this shows that the conditions in Kota do not seem favourable for the well-being of students. Close to three in 10 feel that their mental health has deteriorated after starting coaching classes. More than four in every 10 feel more fatigued after moving to Kota to study. Of them, 45% are girls. Around three in 10 feel that they are more nervous, lonely, moody and depressed in recent times.

Table 4 | During your stay in Kota, has there been an increase or decrease in the following symptoms?

Three in every ten (29%) feel that their anger has increased and a little over one-fourth (26%) said that they experience various types of body pain. Around two in every 10 also feel that they are more frustrated, fearful and sad after shifting to Kota (Table 4). It is also noteworthy that compared to boys, a much higher number of girls said that they have experienced a rise in a majority of these symptoms.

Table 5 | During your stay in Kota, do you feel the need to go to a mental health professional?

Despite exhibiting symptoms of poor mental well-being, only 3% of students said that they have visited a mental health professional. Close to half (48%) do not even feel the need to undertake such a visit. This indicates that more proactive efforts are needed to make young people understand the importance of going to a mental health specialist. (Table 5).

These data underline the need to have a more institutionalised counselling mechanism in coaching centres specifically and in Kota more generally.

Those in distress or having suicidal tendencies could seek help and counselling by calling any of the following numbers: reach out to these 24X7 helplines: KIRAN 1800-599-0019 or Aasra 9820466726

Sanjay Kumar is a Professor at CSDS; Abhinav Borbora is a Researcher at CSDS; Sandeep Shastri is the director – Academics, NITTE Education Trust and National Coordinator, Lokniti; Vibha Attri is a Researcher at CSDS.

Source: Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) survey of students in Kota

Also read | The stressful lives of students in Kota | Data

Listen to our podcast | Vital Signs Ep 3 | Does NEET’s curriculum serve only as entry filter or does it offer more? | Data Point podcast

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