Education is not just about going to an institution and getting a degree. It’s about enhancing one’s knowledge and absorbing the higher truths of life. This comprises of one’s beginning of gaining knowledge from the institute and continues through the college level to that of the university and beyond.
It has been realistically and statistically proven as well, that a large number of college students (primarily teenagers) are heavily depressed in many ways— the causes are hidden in almost all cases.
Theoretically, depression is a medical illness with many symptoms, including physical ones. Being sad is just one aspect. Some people with depression may not have that feeling at all, but are more irritable, or just lose interest in the things they usually like to do.
The present day engineering education system has made it difficult to cope with stress, and as a result depressions have become inevitable. The challenge begins as soon as the students appear for their +2 exams. Due to the lack of focus on their part, and in many ways due to their not being prepared for the future and the incoming rigours challenges, they are embarking upon, depression is born inside them.
They simply choose to go with the flow or with the interests of their parents or significant others. Consequently, they lose interest in the specific course that they enrol for. There exists a huge trend across India of students’ opting for engineering after their boards, and statistics say that more than half of them do not do it as their personal choice or interest, but under the influence of others.
However the stress gets compounded by internal tests, university exams, classes that never seem to end are conducted with the objective of course completion, labs and their records, assignments, etc. But what is monstrous isn’t all of this.
Make a silly mistake and your parents will be summoned. Fail a test and you will face a group counselling session by teachers. When you look at all this as a first year student, the reality suddenly hits like a rock on the face.
After getting through the endless semesters, comes a time when getting a job becomes the highest priority. Students run from pillar to post just to get a job, and being rejected by numerous companies only adds to the woes.
The current Indian job market is not favourable for lakh of engineering students passing out every year, as we are experiencing an economy that is shrinking constantly.
In most of the cases these graduates are being compelled to join companies that are hiring them at much lower values than even daily unskilled labourers. This is primarily due to the fact that the number of fresh engineering graduates each year is far more that the total number of engineers required in various industries.
Family responsibilities add to the pressure, and to cope with the pace and demands of their social lives, and also to deal with their stress, they sometimes become the victims of substance abuse which actually, in turn, adds significantly to their stress on a regular and destroys the normalcy of life.
The perpetually sad, anxious or “empty” moods filled with feelings of hopelessness and pessimism drag them from the normal academic and extracurricular activities that constitute their daily lives. The present day academic scenario has indeed become horrifying. The time has come to get rid of these situations.
As faculty members interact daily with students, we are in an excellent position to recognise behavioural changes that characterise the emotionally troubled students. A student’s behaviour, especially if it is inconsistent should draw our attention towards her/his plight as “a cry for help.” We should always encourage them to open up, to freely state their choices in life, their opinions and their interests outside academics.
There should be someone to motivate them to make them think out of the box. Just as the causes of teenage depression are complex and diverse, so, too, are the possible interventions.
Without a doubt, when an educator believes that a student is currently exhibiting symptoms of depression or is at risk of falling into it, it is crucial to reach out to the student and provide a support network, which may include the student’s family or counselor as well as any outside help, to intervene in different ways.
It is the need of the hour to start caring for the students, keeping in mind the necessity and importance of the three Ps — parenting, passionate and patience. We must keep in mind the fact that a teacher’s role is to remove the obstacles from the path of progress of young minds, so that tomorrow’s citizens will make India, a better nation.
The writer is director, MCKV Institute of Engineering.