Amid rising cases of suicide by students in India allegedly due to stress, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur is taking steps to mitigate campus stress and promote mental health of its pupils.
India reported suicide by nearly 35,950 students during 2019-21, union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Abbaiah Narayanaswamy told Parliament last month.
On January 18, 2024, a 29-year-old PhD student, Priyanka Jaiswal, of IIT-Kanpur was found hanging from the ceiling fan in her hostel room on the campus. It was the third suicide at the IIT Kanpur over the previous 30 days.
Later, the IIT Kanpur students took out a candle march demanding changes in the evaluation process of research thesis in both PhD and master’s programs, while raising the issue of the grading system.
Following these incidents, the Institute took additional steps to strengthen its counselling service by hiring more professionals, including counsellors and hostel managers to take care of medical needs of students.
In a press communiqué today, IIT Kanpur underlined it recognised “the importance of supporting their student community and encouraged them to put their well-being first and prioritise their mental health and needs.”
The Institute has started a dedicated Institute Counselling Service (ICS) centre comprising six clinical psychologists and a dedicated group of student volunteers as well as faculty advisors.
The Institute is also affiliated with three psychiatrists, who visit the campus every week. “With a culture that encourages personal growth and development, the Institute goes beyond academics, supporting holistic development of their students,” the Institute maintained.
Other welfare initiatives include: strengthening the PG Core Counselling team to respond faster for individual mental health support; regular discussions at the department levels to identify issues of academic stress and isolation.
Besides, senior PG students will hand-hold new students to ease the transition and reduce any feeling of alienation, while a faculty guide will keep informal channels of communication open for non-academic matters and foster a supportive environment outside academia.
Interactive hostel-level events will keep students engaged in a positive and interactive environment and build community support even as mental health awareness programs will be conducted for every semester.
Meanwhile, a review committee with five members has been tasked with resolving student issues with an “empathetic approach.” The committee is getting feedback from alumni and other stakeholders, and will make specific recommendations to the administration.
The past year saw the Institute put in place academic reforms, especially for PG students. These include a flexible PhD program with admissions open through the year, enhanced financial assistance, reduction of mandatory PhD courses from six to four, options for PhD students to exit the program with a MS degree etc.