The suicide attempt of a teen after she was allegedly caught for exam malpractice has sent alarm bells ringing in academic circles, with teachers suggesting the need to reduce academic stress and make the learning process less burdensome.

Academics view it as a wakeup call for colleges to take measures to make the learning atmosphere more conducive to students. Mental health experts also point out the need to evolve mechanisms to help students cope with peer and academic pressure.

M. Sreedhara Murthy, professor, Department of Psychology, NMKRV College for Women, observed that obsession over marks often makes things difficult for average students. “The vital joys of learning have disappeared and the focus is on performance rather than a process.”

Peer pressure

K. Vanaja Malathy, coordinator, Jyothi Nivas College, said establishing friendly student-teacher relationships is crucial. “Teachers need to think twice before being rude to students. [We should] understand peer pressure also provokes instant reactions among students and they [could resort to] extreme steps, failing to grasp the repercussions.” She said the incident was a reflection of the “systemic failure”. Prof. Murthy said mental health professionals should sensitise teachers about the emotional problems of adolescents. “There is a need to adopt a non-aggressive style of discipline. Colleges should appoint a full-time counsellor and install a grievance box. They should also start a mentoring process and pre- and post-examination counselling.

C.R. Chandrashekar, professor, Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans), said suicidal behaviour is complex and is often a result of repressed frustration, which may manifest after a trivial event.

He said 20 to 25 per cent of students worldwide are depressed. “Depression has been identified as a global crisis. Suicide can sometimes also be a spontaneous event as there is a tendency among adolescents to take even casual comments seriously as they are emotionally sensitive,” he added.

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