IIT-M suicide: Experts call for independent bodies in higher educational institutions

Chennai: Days after Fathima Latheef, a 19-year-old post graduate student of IIT-Madras, allegedly committed suicide, experts call for a safe and democratic space to discuss issues in premier institutions in the country.

Also, students have demanded the formation of an expert body to look after their mental well-being. This year alone, there have been four deaths, including Fathima, reported from IIT-M. Also, there were three alleged suicides in the campus of SRM University, while a girl student jumped to death from a college in Chengalpet on Thursday.
While there have been discussions on seeking counselling services, News Today spoke to field experts on the incidents.

“Everyone is talking about setting up a mental wellness centre, but, there is no dearth of counsellors in Chennai. There is a free psychiatric facility in the IIT-M, besides students volunteering to offer support. Despite the availability of resources, those in distress did not seek help. The system is so helpless that the students cannot raise their voice,” says Mind Matters Circle, a mental health peer support group in Chennai, founder-coordinator, Saravana Raja.

SRM Medical College Hospital associate professor of department of psychiatry, Dr Sivabalan Elangovan advocates forming an advisory panel to discuss issues that cannot be solved just by a counsellor. “A mental health issue cannot be always attributed to suicides. Of late, social reasons like discrimination are attributed as causes of deaths that have happened in several institutions across India. They will be subjected to depression, however, it cannot be entirely solved by offering counselling. An independent body consisting of human rights advocate, activist and psychiatrist should be formed that allows free flow of discussion,” Sivabalan suggests.

The Banyan, a mental health NGO in the city, director, Dr K V Kishore Kumar states that students should be taught to cope with pressure. “The solution is very simple. Problems in life are inevitable and life-skills to overcome them are necessary. If not that, people should pro-actively seek counselling service,” Kishore, who trains school and college students, adds.


Meeting with CM?
 Even as a Central Crime Branch probe has been ordered into the suicide of Fathima after Greater Chennai Police Commissioner A K Viswanathan personally visited the spot, there was a buzz that the student’s parents were planning to meet Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

Bhavani Prabhakar