On Tuesday afternoon, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad sent out a rather clinical media statement informing that a third year B.Tech student had passed away. Giving no details about how it was not a natural death, it did not reveal the identity of the student and requested for privacy for the family.
Fair enough. At Filter Kaapi, we are neither revealing the identity of the student nor publishing his photograph. But what is most disturbing about the death is that it was a suicide. The student allegedly killed himself by jumping off the hostel building early on Tuesday. The 20-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital and then shifted to a corporate hospital where he breathed his last.
Minutes before taking the extreme step, the student had poured his heart out in an e-mail to a friend, pointing out that he was unable to concentrate on academics and that it had pushed him to a stage of depression.
“I don’t find life interesting any more. I just want to put an end to everything. Life seems depressing. Never ending strands of misfortune to an extent that I mentally couldn’t tolerate it. I have no clue how my future is going to be. I have been feeling this for the past two months. Also the courses are going bad for me. I couldn’t concentrate well. There is a critic within me questioning my every move to the extent that I feel I shouldn’t exist. I shouldn’t exist because I am a self-obsessed guy. I was brought up that way, being compared with my peers all the time. Life rather seems depressing. Never-ending strands of misfortune to an extent that I mentally couldn’t tolerate it. I have no clue how my future is going to be. I have been feeling this for the past two months,” read the email.
This letter should trouble us all. Because it is a failure of the support system – both his peers and the teaching staff at IIT – that it could not detect what a student was going through for 60 days. Did he seek help from friends or anyone in the administration? Was he counselled at the IIT counselling centre? Did anyone observe any behavioural discrepancies?
Why this should have been done is because this is the third suicide at IIT Hyderabad this calendar year. In January, a final year mechanical engineering student killed himself. He was under medication and had visited a psychiatrist a week before committing suicide. In July, another student hanged himself in his hostel room. In his suicide note, he wrote about how he thought there was no future for “failures in the world” as he was not scoring good marks.
Is the prestigious institution aware of what the students go through, their state of mind? Tuesday’s suicide shows no lessons were learnt from what happened in the earlier two cases. A professor at IIT Hyderabad, speaking to Filter Kaapi, denied there was any academic pressure.
“We follow a particular system that allows them time to get the credits. There are also options to ensure there is no pressure at IIT-Hyderabad,” he said.
Why did this 20-year-old choose to log out of life then? It is tragic that a life that held so much promise, that had managed to beat significant competition to enter an IIT, went away like this. Think of the trauma his parents and family must be going through.
It is important that IIT Hyderabad bothers less about the impact the spate of suicides will have on its brand equity and thinks more about corrective measures. 2019 has shown they don’t have the luxury of time.