Trigger Warning: There is mention of suicide.
The lure of self-destruction has been a recurring theme since time immemorial, but the recent phenomenon of the morbid proximity of tragedies implores one to pause and think. It’s not a murder mystery where you’re wondering who’s next, because we are all collectively responsible for the looming threat in lieu of solidarity.
In a quest to explore the allure of this phenomenon of youth suicides on campus, specific notes were highlighted. This is a summation of what some refer to as stressors while others call triggers and the nudge that tips one over the tip of the iceberg. Over the course of one’s life, certain calamities invite clarity and explode in fleeting moments: You break a windowpane with your hand, leaving blood and shattered glass that is stained scarlet all over the place. You also fall out of the window, breaking bones and grazing flesh. The wounds are repaired and treated with stitches, casts, bandages, and antiseptic. Yet depression is not an emergency. It resembles cancer more: Its tumorous growth is initially undetectable to the untrained eye, but one day, bam! A large, lethal lump weighing seven pounds is wedged in your body, and this abnormality that your body has grown is conspiring to kill you. Mental health, or deteriorating mental stability due to existing or inflicted factors, has been identified as one of the major precursors to suicide.
The suicide epidemic though largely characterised as a personal concern, has long taken the form of a public health issue. The most disconcerting trend that we have noticed, all too often, is that institutional apathy has contributed to this tragic epidemic. Institutional apathy manifests in the form of lack of funding and resources dedicated to mental health support, above all, the collective disregard for mental health issues. Despite the fact that suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 18-25, and having had close to eleven suicides in last decade, we are woefully unprepared to address the mental health needs of the junta.
While we build centers for innovation, we hesitate to acknowledge and invest in mental health resources, seeing it as a low priority or simply attributing the bare minimum effort for creating a sound system for support. This lack of investment can have dire consequences for young people struggling with mental health issues, who may not have access to the help they need. In order to be able to tackle the issue from its roots, we would need to first acknowledge the fact that it’s leading to a massive drain in human capital as well. If institutes of eminence are not being able to guarantee the quality of output (being the graduates we are sending off to the labor market every year), then what is the point of associating such importance to such cloisters of apathy wherein individuals are subjected to a socially and institutionally driven need to subject themselves to mental duress which eventually results in not only a decrease in their productive capacity but may just lead to them seeking extreme measures. One of the primary reasons why these urban spaces of knowledge are infamously known to be breeding grounds for an affiliation with intoxicants.
The intersectionality of apathy is also evident in the way successive actions portray or account for suicide and self-harm. It may be insinuated that the crass maneuvering of suicide or suicide attempts can have a profound impact on vulnerable individuals, the lack of affirmative action can clearly increase the risk of suicide contagion. Despite this, the Institute and all its capillary authorities have not been able to provide a helpful narrative for those struggling with mental health issues, while also contributing to the sense of apathy that can lead to self-harm or suicide. This is evident from the fact that we have had three successive tragedies within the span of one academic year. 45 days, three suicides with decreasing gaps, a phenomenon unlike any witnessed in the history of the institute.
It is important to ascertain, to pause and consider, who is susceptible or vulnerable to the allure of self harm or suicidal tendencies. In the absence of a survey to understand the actors and factors that have created an environment conducive to threats to life and not growth, we fail to grasp the extent of this epidural risk that looms over our heads. If we were to consider the marginalized communities, such as LGBTQ+ individuals or disadvantaged groups in terms of caste or religion, who face additional barriers when it comes to accessing mental health support, then how is one to understand its impact and the consequences – stigma, discrimination, or a lack of culturally competent care.
Institutional apathy towards addressing these disparities has contributed to higher rates of suicide and self-harm among these communities. For example, LGBTQ+ youth or in our native context those of caste causalities are more likely to experience mental health issues and attempt suicide, yet they may not have access to supportive resources due to lack of due cognisance or stigma. This intersectionality of apathy is a complex issue that demands our attention. In order to dismantle institutional apathy towards mental health and increase access to supportive resources for all individuals, it is imperative that a comprehensive review of the issue at hand is conducted and the results be published for transparency. The student body is a vital component of this ecosystem, if we are denied our stake in an issue that is detrimental to our well being then this epidemic will remain unresolved.
At the risk of continuing on the tedious path of the long smail threads, one must highlight how academic pressure is a significant factor that contributes to mental health issues amongst the junta. Unfortunately, there was a glaring lack of steps taken to address this issue, leading to a sense of apathy towards the struggles that students face. It was not until recently that the attendance criteria was revised, why is it that it took tragedies to make tangible changes in the repressive system.
Following the cue of all eminent educational institutions, the emphasis is placed heavily on academic achievement. This has contributed to an environment in which the students feel immense pressure to succeed, leading to high levels of stress and anxiety. Though only a few steps have been taken to reduce this academic pressure, so far the institutionally funded counseling services or mental health resources (the likes of Your Dost/Mitr/ Saathi) have proven to be inadequate in addressing the root causes of the alarming issues of prolonged exposure to undeserved pressure. The renewed zeal for mental health awareness will not prove to be fruitful, until and unless, tangible changes are made to address the issue at hand.
The wreaths, the candles and the whispers wither away in the moments of apathy as we move on till agony strikes again.