NEW DELHI: Six students from Delhi and 31 others died by suicide across 11 of the 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) in the country in the last five years (2019-20 to 2023-24). This data was provided by the institutes under an RTI query.
According to information received by RTI activist Dr. Vivek Pandey, 37 suicides occurred in the last five years from 2019-20 to 2023-24 across the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
Seven suicides were registered each by IIT Hyderabad and IIT Madras, while IIT Delhi reported six suicides during the same period.
IIT BHU reported four suicides, while IIT Kanpur and IIT Kharagpur each reported three suicides. IIT Bombay and IIT Dhanbad each reported two suicides. One suicide each occurred at IIT Roorkee, IIT Dharwad and IIT Gandhinagar.
However, no such incident was reported from the other 12 IITs, including the ones in Goa, Bhilai, Jammu, Patna, Jodhpur, Ropar, Indore, Mandi, and Palakkad.
“It’s a tragic loss of 37 students. This underscores the urgent need for mental health support and stress management resources in educational institutions. We must prioritize student well-being, foster open dialogue about mental health, and implement a comprehensive support system to prevent such devastating losses in the future,” said Dr. Pandey.
Last year, while presenting data on suicides across the IITs in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Education Subhas Sarkar said, “Academic stress, family and personal reasons, mental health issues, etc., are some of the reasons for such suicide cases.”
In India, suicide among young people (15-29 years) is one of the highest in the world, estimated to be twice that of the global average (25.5 vs. 13.1 per 100,000). Unfortunately, a significant number of students who die by suicide belong to the IIT, IIM, and medical institutions in the country.
“There is an urgent need to address these issues to save the precious human resource. The reasons for suicides are multifactorial, but the common final cognitive process leading to suicide is intense worthlessness and hopelessness before the person takes a decision to die by suicide,” said Prof. Nand Kumar, from the Psychiatry Department of AIIMS.
According to IIT Delhi officials, they offer 24/7 counseling along with an empanelled setup in different hospitals where people can go if they don’t want in-house counseling. “We have health professionals to look at our own ecosystem and suggest to us what else we need to do. Let’s see what they come up with,” said an official.
They further said that they are trying to increase direct contact with students and strengthen the faculty-student bond so that students who have any issues can directly approach faculty members.
A faculty member of IIT Delhi said that several steps have been taken proactively, including the establishment of an Academic Progress Group (APG) to monitor the academic performance of students. This is especially important for identifying students who are facing major problems and backlogs in their courses. Once these students are identified, the group works with different sections of the institute to find customized solutions for each and every student.
“There are some students who require significantly more support in terms of their mental health. They are either disinterested, losing interest, or have experienced something troubling. Therefore, their parents are requested to stay with them for a semester or for a few months. This is to assist them and ensure that their children attend classes and do not waste time,” said a faculty member.
One of the IIT students told TOI that isolation could be one of the major reasons, along with the high academic commitments at IIT, that create pressure which some students can’t handle. Besides, language issues sometimes make it difficult for those coming from remote places to catch up with classes. Another important factor is the emotional baggage to perform well in IIT.
Prof. Kumar said, “Although suicide is a major mental health complication, it can’t be managed entirely by mental health professionals because background environmental factors and factors that facilitate the transition from depressive cognition to a suicide attempt are beyond the reach of mental health professionals. There is a need to develop and enhance natural coping mechanisms among the students from the beginning so that the students, along with their families, have better resilience.”