4 suicides in 7 months at IISc Bengaluru during Covid highlight mental health issues

The Indian Institute of Science campus in Bangalore | Photo: @iiscbangalore

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New Delhi: Over the past week, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru has lost two students to suicide. Last On Monday, Rajarshi Bhattacharya, originally from Calcutta and a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Organic Chemistry, was found dead in his hostel room. A day later the Tuesday In the night, Rishabh Mishram, 21, from Rajasthan, was found hanged in his bedroom.

A statement released by Rishabh’s father suggested that his son, pursuing a BSc in research, suffered from depression and was undergoing treatment at NIMHANS.

Earlier this year, on March 2, 34-year-old doctoral student Ranadeer Kumar from Bihar committed suicide. Kumar had studied nanotechnology.

In August, the body another doctoral student, Ajay Srichandra, was found hanging from the ceiling fan in his hostel room. A suicide note found in his room read, “I’m sorry dad. The world is not for me. It’s too much for me to take.

A total of four students have committed suicide since March, a figure that rises to five if the date is pushed back to August 2020.

Apart from these deaths, the day Ranadeer Kumar’s lifeless body was found, MTech student Rahul Pratap Singh collapsed on the football field and was pronounced dead when he was transported to the hospital. The students had claims that Singh did not receive immediate emergency first aid, which resulted in his death.

The suicides also prompted students to accuse the institute of paying little attention to their mental health amid the Covid pandemic, while authorities told ThePrint they had carried out investigations to verify the condition. mental students, opened a wellness center and are looking for other ways to solve the problem.

“The pandemic has been extremely hard on our students. We are launching a new initiative on training students to research and identify potential problems early so that support resources can be accessed in a timely manner, ”IISC said in a written statement to ThePrint on Friday.

“A general health survey that was conducted in April 2021 yielded responses from only 10% of the student body. Therefore, we plan to make participation in the survey mandatory in the future so that no one who needs help is left behind, ”the statement added. “Professional counselors also contact all students by phone. “

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The IISc puts undue pressure on us: students

Several students at ThePrint said the institute put undue pressure on them and simultaneously failed to make mental health arrangements. They say the months of lockdown have been hard to survive on IISc.

A doctoral student, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the strict lockdown measures had taken their toll. “Since science students have to be in the lab because the experiments cannot be done online, several students have stayed at the institute. Those who stayed were only allowed to go to class and come back, ”she said. “We would collect our food from the cafeteria in tiffin boxes and eat it in our rooms. A “Covid brigade” has been set up. He monitored what the students were doing and who they interacted with. We weren’t even allowed to talk to our lot mates on open grounds. It was extremely annoying and living there in isolation took a toll on our mental health. “

“Getting out of campus was a tedious task that required written authorizations from several authorities. No one wanted to go through the tedious process, ”she added. “We weren’t allowed to leave the campus even when the city opened up after the second wave. Only now can students easily leave campus.

In August last year, Sandeep Kumar, an MTech student at IISc, committed suicide after showing symptoms of coronavirus.

A second doctoral student from the biology department said that despite the establishment of a mental health service, the help provided by the institute was not sufficient. “I take sessions with the counselor and psychiatrist provided by the institute, but they are only available for sessions two days a week for three hours a day,” the student said. “There are only a limited number of students that these mental health experts can talk to in such a short time.”

A letter written anonymously by the students of the institute in September 2020, which was circulated widely in the institute, claimed that the institute not only “treated the students as a cargo”, but was also engaged in a “widespread mismanagement”.

“The overall research output declined quite predictably during the pandemic. With the exception of the study of coronaviruses, all branches of science seem to be malfunctioning, ”the letter read, a copy of which is with ThePrint.

According to the letter, the students were sent home without notice, the student residence was “broken into” by management, and the contract cleaning and security staff were treated badly.

IISc’s statement to ThePrint did not comment on the letter that was circulated.

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Do whatever we can, says IISc

In its written statement to ThePrint, the institute said it was “committed to ensuring that the IISc campus is a safe and inclusive space for all”.

“The pandemic has dramatically disrupted research and teaching timelines, and we realize this has put additional strain on students. Online education has been a challenge for students and faculty members; they cannot replace traditional courses in the long term, ”he added. “We will resume physical classes as soon as we know we can do so without compromising the health and safety of our students and teachers.

The institute also said it has set up a wellness center for students.

No allegations against faculty: Police

Bengaluru Police, who investigated each of the suicide cases, told ThePrint that no blame or allegation has been leveled against IIS.vs as an institution or its faculty members in suicide notes.

Although the suicide cases are recorded as unnatural deaths, local police conducted routine investigations and searches in each of the cases to determine the conditions under which the suicides took place. The stress angle due to studies and institutional pressure, according to the police, is also investigated every time.

“In our surveys of friends of the deceased, we found that the most decisive cause is personal. A feeling of personal failure. In a few cases, the deceased had mentioned in their suicide notes that the institution or faculty members should not be harassed because of their decision, ”said a senior officer in charge of the area to which the lord reports. ‘IISc.

They point out that this is the reason why the parents of the deceased do not file complaints or prosecute the institution, the officer added. “If there was a pattern, then there would definitely be a backlash at ground level but that’s not the reality,” the officer said.

During their searches of the deceased’s rooms, police said, common materials found included antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. “In our understanding of the cases so far, most of those who die by suicide are doctoral students. Many come from difficult family backgrounds, ”the officer said.

With contributions from Anusha Ravi Sood

(Edited by Arun Prashanth Subramanian)

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