Helpline on exam-related suicides

Ramya Kannan and Meera Srinivasan

The helpline (28482300) leads directly to Intensive Medical Care Unit of GRH


Bring the substance consumed by the patient to the hospital

Keep the patient under observation, irrespective of quantity consumed


Do not induce vomiting

Do not pass a tube through the food pipe

Do not use neutralising agents

Do not give oral feeds before the patient is brought to the doctor

CHENNAI: It is now common practice for the non-governmental sector to be geared up to tackle examination performance-related suicides when public examination results are announced. For the first time now, the Government Royapettah Hospital has joined the bandwagon.

A helpline (28482300) that leads directly to the Intensive Medical Care Unit of the GRH has been initiated to help students who consume acid in an attempt to commit suicide. The surgical gastroenterology team at the Royapettah hospital specialises in treating patients who consume acid and rehabilitating them.

“Consuming acid after a failure is an impulsive reaction. Students aim to die, but the majority of them survive. International statistics show that 80-90 per cent of people who consume acid with the intention of killing themselves, do not die,” says S.M.Chandramohan, head of the Gastroenterology department at Royapettah Hospital.

Increasing cases

“We see an increasing number of acid-poisoning teenaged patients coming in immediately after the examination results are out. When we speak to the patients we find that they had attempted suicide not because they failed in an examination, but because they scored less than what they expected,” he added.

His advice to parents is to be careful about pushing their children too far. Often it is the fear of reprimand from parents that drives students to consuming acid, he adds.

Consultant psychologist S. Thenmozhi says, “Parents think putting their child in a medical or engineering college is the only option. They don’t think it is important for the child to like what he or she is doing.” Examination-related suicides among children are preventable. “It is usually not just the marks that force a child to take the decision (of committing suicide), but an accumulation of pressure over a period of time, which is worsened at this time.” One nasty or insensitive comment is enough to push them over the edge.

Info on first aid

The GRH helpline will provide information on how to provide first aid to those who have consumed acid.

The greater the volume of acid or alkali, its concentration and consumption on an empty stomach contribute to the severity of the case. The hospital has a list of do’s and don’ts that are recommended to persons who call the helpline.

“Our hope is that no one consumes acid, but if there is an unfortunate incident, we will be there to help the patient and family out,” Dr. Chandramohan said.

There is also help for students who are contemplating suicide.

Sneha, the 24-hour helpline, provides counselling for student callers during examinations, gently dissuading them from going ahead with the suicide attempt. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, founder-trustee, Sneha, says there is a great advantage to publicising the availability of help lines.

“We have noticed that it makes a difference. The number of calls increases four times the normal and this translates to lower exam-related suicides,” she explained. While the total number of suicides has gone up, the number of exam-related cases had come down to 40 in 2006, as compared to 54 the previous year.

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