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Responsible parenting important to stop Kota suicides: Mental health experts

With an alarming 26 suicide cases in 2023 and five already in 2024 and at least three disappearances, it has become a city in pursuit of excellence but bogged down by stress, depression and despondency due to fierce competition and peer pressure.
Last Updated 21 February 2024, 21:13 IST

Jaipur: After a spate of student suicides and disappearances, Kota is no longer a place to leave your children alone, said a concerned parent.

However, mental health experts said responsible parenting and respecting the child’s academic capability are imperative to arrest more such incidents.

Priya Sharma, a journalist from Patna, has left her well-cushioned job to be with her son, a Class XI student, who is currently undergoing coaching for JEE. “With the alarming rise in suicides and now disappearances, I could never think of leaving my son alone here. It is not safe to leave students in this coaching hub. We were never interested in sending him here but he was insistent because some of his classmates have come here. They are staying in the hostel but I left my job to be with him.”

Kota, the country’s coaching hub for cracking the country’s toughest entrance exams JEE and NEET and home to about two lakh students from all over the country, has been witnessing a spate of suicides and disappearances. With an alarming 26 suicide cases in 2023 and five already in 2024 and at least three disappearances, it has become a city in pursuit of excellence but bogged down by stress, depression and despondency due to fierce competition and peer pressure. The suicide cases stood at 15 in 2022, 18 in 2019, 20 in 2018, 7 in 2017, 17 in 2016 and 18 in 2015.

Although the state government has come out with strict guidelines like mandatory screening tests before admission, forming sections not based on ranks and performances, no glorification of toppers, regular counselling by hiring trained professional psychiatrists to keep a check on students’ mental health, mandatory holidays, half-day fun and respite from regular, tough exams, the number of suicides is not abating.

Raksha Rajesh, clinical psychologist, Mistu.care told Deccan Herald, “To arrest such incidents, there has to be systematic change. Firstly the student’s aptitude has to be ascertained, whether the child is up to it or not. It is like a domino effect, everything is connected like the lack of good, sensible parenting, high expectations, looking at the student only from an academic lens, social comparisons - all of these lead to students taking that extreme step. Some students can fight it, some others succumb to it.”

She said individual parenting is the most important link to letting the child feel secure. The parent has to provide the child a feeling of security and make them understand that failure is a part and parcel of life and not the end of everything. The child must overcome the fear of failure, aided by his parents. In this cut-throat environment, with peer pressure, and often abusive teachers, parents must keep their communication lines open with the child, monitoring if there is any unusual behavioural change. Parents must understand there is a fine line between the act of motivating and putting pressure. Emotional safety of the child lies with the family. A child must have the courage to confide to his parents that he is not cut out for this excessive pressure.

The government guidelines to make teaching staff, hostel wardens, mess workers, and tiffin service providers detect any sign of depression are being followed, said officials of Allen, one of the premier coaching institutes.

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(Published 21 February 2024, 21:13 IST)

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