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The Silent Crisis

According to the 2023 NCRB Report, over 10,000 children under 18 years old died by suicide. For over 2,000 students, failure in exams was the cause. 

Let's take a minute to let that sink in. 

In a staggering revelation, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Report of 2023 disclosed a harrowing truth: over 13,000 students in India took their own lives in 2022. These numbers, while alarming, underscore a silent crisis brewing within the educational system, where the pressure to excel academically has become a matter of life and death for far too many young minds.

The statistics paint a grim picture: among these tragic deaths, failure in examinations served as a catalyst for over 2,000 students, highlighting the immense academic stress students endure. What's even more disheartening is that these deaths aren't limited to a particular age group but permeate across various educational levels. From primary to higher secondary, the burden of academic expectations weighs heavily on students, with the highest percentage of deaths occurring among those at the secondary level. The percentage of total suicide deaths in classes 11 & 12 was 15.9%, classes 9 & 10 were 23.9%, classes 6 to 8 at 18%, and classes 1 to 5 at 14.5%.

Evidently, the prevailing societal mindset, which equates success solely with academic achievements, exacerbates this crisis. As echoed by experts, a student's worth shouldn't be measured solely by exam scores but by their talents, interests, and holistic development. Thus, it becomes imperative for schools to redefine success and foster an environment where students feel valued beyond their academic performance. The responsibility of ensuring student well-being doesn't solely rest on the shoulders of educators; it's a collective effort that encompasses physical, mental, and emotional safety. Schools must proactively address issues such as harassment, bullying, and mental health concerns, which also serve as underlying factors contributing to suicidal ideation among students.

One effective strategy to combat this crisis is through comprehensive awareness campaigns conducted within educational institutions. Workshops, seminars, and counseling sessions can serve as vital platforms to educate both students and faculty about mental health awareness, stress management techniques, and the importance of seeking help when needed. By normalizing conversations around mental health and breaking the stigma associated with seeking support, schools can create a supportive ecosystem for students facing psychological distress. Moreover, schools must also prioritize early intervention by equipping staff and faculty with the necessary training to identify signs of distress and intervene appropriately. Building a robust support system within schools ensures that students receive timely assistance and are connected with mental health professionals when needed. Additionally, fostering open communication channels between students, teachers, and parents cultivates a culture of trust and support, enabling students to express their concerns without fear of judgment.

Parents and caregivers play a pivotal role in safeguarding their children's mental health. By staying vigilant and attentive to changes in behavior or mood and using suicide screeners in school, they can identify warning signs of distress and intervene promptly. Establishing a nurturing home environment where children feel comfortable discussing their feelings and seeking help fosters resilience and emotional well-being. Furthermore, it's essential to destigmatize seeking professional help for mental health issues. Schools can collaborate with mental health organizations to provide accessible counseling services within the school premises, ensuring that students have easy access to support when needed. By integrating mental health education into the curriculum, schools can empower students with the knowledge and skills to prioritize their well-being and seek help proactively.

Let’s not allow the responsibilities of adulthood take away the present of childhood. Children should feel safe failing and be taught that it is a part of the learning process. Parents and educators should take time to think about how they define the language of success. Success should be defined as getting up after falling down…even if repeatedly. The stigma attached to failure should be eradicated at home and in school. Conversations between parents and children, teachers and students should be free-flowing and they should be encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement. Only then can we safeguard the country's future and encourage creativity, innovation and experimentation. 

Let us join hands in addressing this silent crisis and ensure we are creating a safe space for our children to thrive. 

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