On average, Southern states recorded 2,900 student suicides every year since 2014; Tamil Nadu was 2nd in India

Experts say suicides are increasing due to multiple factors, including excessive competition in academics and fewer employment avenues.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Oct 11, 2022 | 3:27 AMUpdatedOct 17, 2022 | 2:08 PM

Last month two National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) aspirant girls last month in Tamil Nadu ended their life in fear of not qualifying for the medical exam. (Creative Commons)

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports from 2014 to 2021 show that, on average, 2,900 student suicide cases were reported in each of these years in the five South Indian states, with Tamil Nadu accounting for the most.

While Maharashtra leads the national figures, Tamil Nadu is ranked second among the 28 states and eight Union territories.

A total of 82,494 cases of student suicide were registered in the country over the eight years from 2014 to 2021 — with nearly one-third (22,951 cases) of them taking place in South India.

Among the southern states and UTs, Tamil Nadu registered 7,642 cases, followed by Karnataka (5,054 cases), Telangana (3,507), Kerala (3,300), Andhra Pradesh (3,115), and Puducherry (333).

Of the total student suicides reported in the South in this period, 11,690 were boys and 11,261 girls.

IPC Section 309, under which attempt to suicide cases were booked, has now been decriminalized, with an amendment that any person who attempts to commit suicide should be presumed, unless proven otherwise, to be suffering from severe stress and should not be tried and punished.

In recent cases in Tamil Nadu, two National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) aspirants, both girls, ended their life for fear of not qualifying in the medical exam.

In August, a 22-year-old MTech student at the Hyderabad campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) died by suicide, blaming the institute in a suicide note for causing him stress.




Recent trend 

Between 2020 and 2021, Telangana saw a 31 percent increase in student suicides among the southern states, according to the NCRB tally. It was followed by Tamil Nadu, which saw a 25 percent rise in cases of student suicide.

Next came Andhra Pradesh, recording a 20 percent hike in student suicides, closely followed by Karnataka, which recorded a rise of 19 percent.

Kerala, with a six percent hike in the cases registered for student suicide, was next, while Puducherry actually recorded a drop in student suicides from 52 in 2020 to 49 in 2021.

'Authorities need to find solution soon'

Kota Nileema, director of the Delhi-based Institute of Perception Studies (IPS), which conducted research on student suicides in Telangana over the past months, was of the view that the increase in student suicides is due to a combination of three underlying factors.

"First, infrastructure in educational institutions is not up to the mark. From buildings to food, all kinds of facilities are badly maintained. You can see the recent food poisoning incidents in Telangana government residential schools. Despite that, they have to pay and they do not get the desired amenities... this creates an impact on them and puts them under pressure," she told South First.

Second, according to Nileema — who also heads the Hyderabad-based Hakku Initiative, which works on solutions with citizens and government — the quality of education in most institutions is not as the students expect when they join.

"The students want innovative education, which they feel they are not getting. The number of teaching staff is low. All these things put students — who are looking for employment — under stress," she added.

And three, the former journalist noted, was the delay in fee reimbursement to the EWS and other-backward-class students. This too causes them as well as their families distress.

'Student psychology needs to be understood'

Dr Ashwini NV, founder-director of Bengaluru-based Muktha Foundation, which works on preventing abuse and promoting mental health, told South First: "Most students are adolescents and emerging young adults. These stages are characterised by several physical, social, and academic transitions. They pose potential challenges, which students attempt to address themselves or with others' support."

She added that securing a seat in a course or institution of their choice by competing in exams, such as NEET, is often considered a significant milestone that defines their identity.

"Not having a back-up if things do not go the way one wants, poses a crisis like no other, especially to one's identity," said Ashwini, whose doctoral thesis pertained to suicidology.

"When families and peers share the perspective that one's self-worth is exclusively dependent on securing a seat in an institution of one's choice, there is no scope for planning an academic back-up or even talking about 'What if I don't get the seat'?"

Family need to support unconditionally

According to the psychologist, primary caregivers such as parents, who must be protective in case of failure, at times prove to be risk factors that push students into even further distress.

"Excessive competition for lesser seats, clubbed by pressure from people around, financial constraints, and lack of a backup plan might cumulatively contribute to suicidal ideation and behaviour. Not to forget the 'copycat phenomenon', meaning some students might also be influenced by the media reports on other students' suicidal behaviour in the context of academic setback," one's explained.

"Parents and relatives must develop attitudes of unconditionally loving and supporting children. Easier said than done, but no child needs to believe that 'my parents will support me only if I secure this seat or that'. Parents must communicate that they are valued, irrespective of their academic achievements. This removes half the pressure," Ashwini explained.

The professional also stressed the need for everyone to be trained in the skill of gatekeeping (being aware of signs of suicide) to halt people from ending their lives.

"It is important that we see multiple possibilities of what we do with our professional life. That mindset needs to be nurtured among parents and the community. Failure need not be condemned. Instead, it needs to be considered a possibility in anyone's life," she remarked.

Suicide prevention hotlines

Here are the major suicide prevention hotlines from across South India:

Tamil Nadu
State health department’s suicide helpline: 104
Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre: 044-24640050

Andhra Pradesh
Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930
Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222

Maithri: 0484 2540530
Chatham: 0484 2361161
(Both are 24-hour helpline numbers)

State government’s suicide prevention (tollfree): 104
Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200
SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682