Recently, the state-run helpline number 104 had a two-fold jump in the number of calls that they have received following the release of Class 12 exams. When compared to the average of 1,800 calls received on a daily basis, the helpline answered over 4,500 calls on the day of the results.
Dr C Sivagurunathan, who heads the helpline, said that apart from Class 10 and Class 12 students who appear for the board exams, this year has the additional group of students who appeared for Class 11 exams. He added, “However, the focus is more on the Class 12 results, the calls continued to be on the rise even on the second day. The numbers will be on the higher side as many have considered about revaluation. They have to be counselled on anxiety and stress management.”
The helpline has been giving three rounds of counselling — ahead of the exams, during the exams and during results. For the results, a large number of counsellors are pressed into action out of which a few require follow ups that are flagged for the next counsellor on duty to follow up.
He explained that the helpline comes in handy to those who do not have a person to confide in. “It is easier for them to talk to the counsellors and discuss their fears openly,” he points.
In fact, a suicide prevention helpline which was launched way back in 1986 by Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, a psychiatrist, began offering 24/7 counselling services when they realised more students dialled in during exams and results. In 2000, we did a study on the student suicides. “There were two categories of them turning to suicide — the ones who failed by a few marks and the ones who expected to score 90s but ended up getting lesser,” she pointed out.
Dr Vijayakumar added that the numbers of stressed students are bound to be high throughout the result season and after wards as the next concern for them is about entrance exams like GATE, NEET, etc.
Dip in suicides
The numbers of suicides have come down over the years, courtesy the supplementary exam system that was introduced by the Education Department. Dr Vijayakumar said, “We stressed on the need for the students who failed to not lose a year. There were 48 student suicides in Chennai during 2003-04, and the number came down to 7 in 2015.” But the scenario in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu has not changed much, she added.
Looking at preventing suicides, Dr Sivagurunathan said that they are following up with hospitals on cases of suicide attempts. “People are often successful in committing suicides in the second or third attempts. So, we are working towards following up the attempts to counsel and monitor them. However, we need to wait to comment on how suicidal tendencies among students can be monitored through this method,” he said.
Experts say that while girls are more forthcoming in reaching out for help, enough and more advocacy can make more boys to come forward and discuss their issues. “They somehow tend to believe that is unmanly to seek help,” Dr Vijayakumar added.