A BTech student purportedly killed himself at IIT Madras on Friday, marking the fourth suicide in the last three months at the institute and prompting his worried peers to question the on-campus mechanisms for identifying depressed students.
Kedar Suresh Chougule, a second-year student of chemical engineering from Maharashtra, was found hanging in his hostel room in the afternoon.
The suicide comes just three days after the IIT Council, the top decision-making body for the premier institutes, decided to hire more counsellors and implement a system for regular student-teacher interactions to stem the rising suicides.
IIT Madras has now witnessed 12 student suicides since 2018, the highest among the IITs where 35 students have ended their lives in the last five years, mostly because of academic stress.
While details of Chougule’s academic performance and the reason for his suicide remain unclear, an institute official said the studenthad had a breakup inAugust, which had left him depressed.
The official said Chougule had undergone counselling at the wellness community centre on the campus where students can discuss their concerns with health experts.
However, it’s up to the students themselves to approach the centre. Most depressed students tend to remain aloof and not seek counselling.
“Only if the student comes to the wellness centre and discusses the issues, or friends bring the student to the centre, does he or she receive treatment,” a student said.
“But this is not adequate; there should be a system to identify the students in distress proactively.”
Last month, a research scholar with “exemplary academic and research record” had committed suicide at IIT Madras.
E. Muralidharan, a former student of IIT Madras, said the institutes’ top officials should be held accountable for recurrent suicides.
An email was sent to IIT Madras director V. Kamakoti seeking the reasons for the high incidence of suicides on the campus. His response is awaited.
Several IIT alumni have said the institutes should devise a system to monitor every student, especially those depressed or stressed, and have accused the education ministry of failing to do enough in this direction.
The ministry has been highlighting its Manodarpan initiative, started in 2020, under which a student of any institution anywhere in India can approach counsellors online or via the telephone for psychological support.
However, it’s the student who has to take the initiative, and how well or widely the students know about the scheme or the helpline numbers remains unclear.