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Psychologists explain why exams lead to attempted suicides


By Hirra Azmat

Srinagar, Jun 09: “The thought of qualifying exams with an A grade is giving me sleepless nights. I get anxious about the future. What if I score low and fail to make it to my desired college? Would I be considered a failure forever?”
The questions haunt Umar, a 12th grader studying in a leading school of the valley. The resulting anxiety has tormented him in the past as well.
“This ever present anxiety has severely affected my health. The feeling of hopelessness prevails to such an extent that I get suicidal thoughts,” he says, with a sigh.
His fears seem justified as only the last month, following the Class XII and X CBSC board results, many cases of suicide by students were reported within India.
In Delhi, at least, three students disappointed with their results committed suicide.
Psychiatrists see it as a worrying phenomenon resulting from the total significance attached to the grades scored by a student.
Dr Muzaffar, Consultant Psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services, Help Foundation, said it has become a recurring belief that top grades are important in order to achieve any type of personal success.
“While some are able to cope up with the challenges thrown by academia, many succumb to the pressure. Those who can’t cope up can fall prey to unhealthy practices including drugs or self-mutilation. In extreme cases, it may lead to suicides,” Muzaffar said.
Dr Arif Magribi Khan, a doctor in community psychiatry, agreed that it was a “common sub-continent phenomenon” to give more weightage to marks.
“The obsession with marks becomes a stressor stimuli for many students,” he said.
“The students reach a point where they start believing that scores will determine their future life. They indulge in over magnification and generalisation.”
“Among the many reasons, the mounting parental and peer pressure make the situation worse.”
While the experts believe the onus lies on parents and teachers, they point towards the dearth of “counsellors and help lines” for dealing with the psychological stress in the valley-based institutions.
“There are no professional counsellors and psychologists in majority of the schools and colleges,” said Dr Muzaffar.
The psychologists said the need of the hour is to counter the constant problem by provision of timely aid to students by the “inclusion of counselling sessions before exams”, “upgrading school curriculum”, “building resilience among kids”, and “availability of helpline numbers to attend the distress calls”.