Latest suicides data reveals that more than 12,500 students died by suicide in India in pandemic-hit 2020 at a rate of more than 34 a day. Many states reported more than one death on a daily basis. There was an increase of more than 21% compared to 2019.
The data states that nearly 53% (6,598) were from six states – Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh. Other states and Union Territories, together, reported 5,928 deaths.
Between 1995 and 1999, as per analysis, student suicides accounted for more than 5.2% of all suicides on average. 1995 can be said to be the worst year as it recorded 6.6% student suicides, comparatively during 2000-2009, only one year saw student suicides making up for more than 5%. Data shows that during 2010-2014, the last two years recorded such cases to be more than 6%, and every year thereafter account for more than 6%. Student suicides accounted for 7.4% of the 1.3 lakh total suicides in 2019. And in 2020, they accounted for 8.2% of the 1.5 lakh total suicides.
Dr John Vijay Sagar, professor and HoD, child and adolescent psychiatry, Nimhans, told ToI that suicides don’t happen suddenly. “In most of these cases, the students would have faced problems earlier too. The fact that the unprecedented circumstances the pandemic brought in would have meant they had to cope with additional stress and anxiety,” he explained. “Most children or students spent time at home by themselves except in families where parents too could work from home. This means their coping mechanisms would have got affected with venting systems, like friends and school or college environment being absent.” Dr Sagar added that family conflicts, that students would not have noticed would have come to the fore with everybody staying at home.
Dr MS Dharmendra, consultant, psychiatrist, at Manasa Neuropsychiatric Hospital, pointed out that students were restricted to homes because of the lockdown which caused a sudden change in their routines. “Ability to cope with changes determines how they progressed in their studies as not everyone would be able to learn online.”
Experts have also highlighted that grief, anxiety and depression children have experienced during the pandemic is welling over into classrooms and hallways, resulting in crying and disruptive behavior in many younger kids and increased violence and bullying among adolescents. And for many other children, who keep their sadness and fear inside, the pressures of school have become too great.