Why did they choose to suffer in silence?

The pressure to succeed academically can be devastating, and the fear of failure is a significant trigger for students experiencing mental health concerns
The seed of suspicion against him was sown by his own father by telling everyone to remain alert against Shakeel.
The seed of suspicion against him was sown by his own father by telling everyone to remain alert against Shakeel.

Certainties are no longer part of our lives, we cry easily and often. Our tears are uncontrollable and exhausting when unprompted memories remind us; we are totally bereaved.

I shall a share a case study of a boy Shakeel (name changed) who committed suicide. There was a constant quarrel and bickering between his parents, finally they got divorced.

Both parents remarried. The father was very abusive towards Shakeel. There was no one around to understand the pain and mental trauma of Shakeel. There was a sudden steep fall in the academic trajectory of Shakeel. His cousin was his classmate reading in the same section.

Parents of his cousin requested the principal to change the section of their ward citing delinquent behavior of Shakeel. Teachers did not bother to explore the factors responsible for the academic regression of Shakeel.

Shakeel was never given an opportunity of being heard except by one old pandit lady teacher in his school. She always tried to plead his case when others chose to be mute spectators. Her untimely death was a big blow for Shakeel; he was left alone at the mercy of circumstances.

The concerned principal convened an emergency meeting of school management committee.

The concerned teachers recommended in one voice to struck him off the rolls in the larger interest of other students endorsing the application submitted by his aunt in which she had leveled serious allegations against Shakeel and requested for changing the section of her child.

In the school, teachers made him feel an odd man out, his friends maintained a distance from him, and he felt isolated and neglected.

Finally he was discharged from school on fabricated grounds and cookedup  stories. Back home his step mother and sisters found it is the right moment to strike. They alleged him of theft.

They made his life a living hell by constant rebuking and emotionally pinching him by uttering harsh words. Father maintained criminal silence and endorsed the version of his wife and daughters.

I shall cite one example; it was the day of Eid, lunch was cherished by family members, Shakeel was singled out. At the time of lunch father enquired about everyone except Shakeel despite the fact he had kept 30 days fast. On the day of Eid he left without taking lunch.

Relatives allowed his partial entry to their home but remained on pins when shall he leave. He was looked at with an eye of suspiciousness. He was not the part of family functions. The seed of suspicion against him was sown by his own father by telling everyone to remain alert against Shakeel.

These inhuman and insensitive activities of his father created a deep split in the personality of Shakeel. The psychosocial consequences associated with parental deprivation include sleeplessness, fear, nervousness, anger, aggressiveness, depression and flashbacks, Shakeel experienced these symptoms. To come out of this Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and chronic depression there was no hand-holding from any side. Shakeel saw no light at the end of the tunnel. He left his home for ever.

Finally he moved towards the other side of the fence. Initially he tried with soft drugs and with the passage of time became a hardcore offender. He developed suicidal tendencies.

One day he was fed up with his non-directed life, he was hungry for many days. He knocked the door of one of his close relatives and was there for several hours but she did not  open the gate, he left disappointed, there was no hand-holding from any side.

Finally he decided to end his choked life. Under the influence of heavy drugs, hungry for many days  he jumped in the river Jhelum and died as an an unsung villain. Crocodile tears were shed but there was no real moving of hearts.

Sustained conflict between parents can affect a child’s mental health. It impedes the emotional and psychological growth of a child and can impact their ability to form future relationships. In extreme cases, they may develop suicidal feelings.

Suicides always happened. But now with easy access to social media, incidents are highlighted way much more. Society and people are not as connected as they used to be, before committing suicide, a person leaves behind several hints but people around are unconcerned. Emile Durkheim, in his magnum opus entitled, “Suicide”, indicates that suicide is a sociological phenomenon.

He writes that, social cohesiveness and traditional family life augmented the feeling of belongingness and protected against self-destructive behavior. However, the collapse of societies and families as a result of self-centered and materialistic mind-set resulted in isolation, individualistic accomplishments and alienation.

As societies, which were traditionally collective adapted a more materialistic approach; it resulted in a sense of emptiness. In India, the high rate of suicide among young adults can be associated with greater socioeconomic stressors that have followed the liberalization of the economy and privatization leading to the loss of job security, huge discrepancies in incomes and the inability to meet role obligations in the new socially changed environment. The collapse of the joint family system that had earlier provided emotional support and stability is also seen as an important contributory factor in suicides in India. 

A news report Amid Suicides, Experts Warn Against ‘Copycat Phenomena’ in Kashmir quoted experts warning about the ‘copycat phenomenon’ wherein distressed and vulnerable persons feel inspired to end their life by consuming an overdose of information about suicides through media ( Kashmir Observer, 01 June-2021). The pre-suicide video, recorded by a Kulgam boy and widely circulated on social media had enough content to allow many others to follow the same.

These disturbing videos widely circulated on whatsapp and social media play a negative role by conditioning our youth how to conduct a suicide act.  Another factor which we will touch in this article:  Is Failure the Only Reason Why Students Commit Suicide? Every time we hear about a student committing suicide in India, we assume failure in some exam to be the cause.

But, the recent suicide of 17-year-old girl Kriti despite scoring more than what is required to get her a seat in an IIT Institution, tells us a completely different story. In our country, generally many students surrender to very high amount of pressure, especially from their family and teachers in terms of their career choices and studies.

Even in Kriti’s case it was her being forced to take up science by her mother, as stated in her suicide letter, that made her take this extreme step. Parents, across all income groups, are fossilized about letting their child do anything less than medical or engineering courses. Consciousness about new subjects may be there, but acceptability is missing. Arts is still considered a poor counterpart of science subjects, even though it offers plenty of interesting and even well-paying career choices. Just a little out-of-the-box thinking is desirable.

We need to allow our children to dream. In major cases the causes of suicide remain unidentified. Could this be because the victim was not relaxed expressing their concerns even for one last time? Why did they choose to suffer in silence? In many circumstances, it so happens that the victims find it hard to freely express their concerns about the pressure they are dealing with, even with their close ones. 

In one such case a student Anjali committed suicide, just because she anticipated to not perform well in an exam she was preparing for. In her suicide note, Anjali voices her parents, “I cannot face you if I am not selected.”  The pertinent question it raises is, would it not have facilitated if she could freely discuss this with her parents or may seek some professional help? Academic institutions should be very serious while communicating results to students, they should double check before making the results out.

I shall cite a case of student Mared of University of Cardiff who killed herself after wrongly being told she had failed an exam. Mared had a message saying she'd failed, and then later her parents were told she hadn't failed. She had have been horrified that the university she loved, the course she loved, would state that.

All her dreams and aspirations were finished with that one sentence. There is a fear factor involved. A 21-year-old girl, Rajalakshmi, allegedly died by suicide in the fear of her NEET result. The girl took this drastic step out of fear that she would fail the exam and fall short of realizing her dream of becoming a doctor.

She had not cleared the NEET exam on her previous two attempts, a fact that could be the cause of her anxiety regarding the results. It is important that parents and teachers start making an effort to understand the potential and the aptitudes of their children. To simply pressurize them and blame them for their poor performance in academics is only going to augment on to their miseries. This will make them suffer in silence and force them to feel lonely.

Loneliness and stress pooled together can slowly lead them to depression. For students, it is important to comprehend that suicide is not a solution. It destroys not only their own life but many other lives. There is help available out there but condition is they speak! There are counselors, psychologists and even exceptional relatives who are more than willing to help them cope with it.  

The pressure to succeed academically can be irresistible, and the fear of failure is a significant trigger for students experiencing mental health concerns. Suicide due to failing exams is a preventable tragedy that can be addressed by creating a supportive environment for students. It’s essential to recognize the warning signs, provide academic and emotional support, and encourage students to seek professional help.

Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

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