The number of students availing counselling services at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay doubled in the academic year 2021-22 as compared to the previous academic year, according to data compiled by the institute’s Student Wellness Centre (SWC).
While 310 students availed counselling in academic year 2020-21, the number jumped to 626 in academic year 2021-22. Of them, the highest 210 students are from Under Graduate courses while Ph.D students are a close second at 203.
The increase in the number of such students availing counselling reflects greater awareness amid the Covid pandemic about the importance of mental health and forums available for help, according to the SWC. The taboo attached to mental health issues appears to be fading.
Dean of Students’ Affairs at IIT Bombay, Prof Tapanendu Kundu, said, “This does not mean increase in the number of cases. In fact, this is the result of increased awareness. There could have been cases in the past too but it is good to see that more individuals are reaching out for help.”
Mentioning the initiatives taken up by the SWC to spread awareness, Prof Kundu said, “Amid the pandemic when students were home, away from the campus, several reached out to the SWC. Additionally, with an increase in total students’ strength, we have expanded the facilities.”
“Apart from making available one-on-one counselling on campus and 24/7 online counseling, we have also created information platforms for students’ knowledge, as considering the taboo attached to mental health many students may not come forward for the counseling,” he said.
Even as highest 48 per cent of students who reached out are seen facing emotional issues, Hima Anaredy, In-charge at SWC, said, “One cannot point out any one specific reason for emotional or academic concerns faced by students as many things are interconnected.”
Currently, around 20 per cent of the students who visited the SWC have academic concerns, which affect their emotional well-being which further affects their academics.
“It is important to note that there is a vicious circle of these issues. For example, a student may be lagging behind in academics leading to emotionally down days adding to the procrastination again resulting in academic lag. Or in a reverse, there could be untreated emotional/psychological concerns from the past, which are aggravated with academic struggles/setbacks, causing the individual to start feeling down emotionally further resulting in more academic lag,” Anaredy said.
“Every individual has a different kind of perspective/experience in pursuing academic, emotional and other concerns. But it is important to reach out for available support at an early stage, which makes the process easier for students.”
While there has been a 100 per cent increase in the number of students availing help, there is also an increase in the number of cases which were closed successfully – from 93 last year to 285 in 2021-22.
Out of the cases closed successfully, 34 required psychopathology intervention whereas the remaining were those seeking help at a very early stage or not with an underlying issue making the resolve easier. Total 195 cases were handled with help from the community, including student mentors, faculty from departments, IIT Bombay Hospital and also families of students.
While there were 20 per cent clinical cases, only 2 per cent were beyond counselling at the SWC and 4 per cent faced parental or family issues.
The SWC has been making targeted efforts so that more individuals get an early intervention. It proactively reached out to more than 600 isolated/quarantined students to check if they required psychological support. In October 2021, Virtual Mental Health Week was observed to promote a sense of well-being and optimism among the institute students.
The SWC also launched a YouTube channel for widely connecting with students. The content of this channel, which has got more than 1,750 views, is customised to issues faced by IIT Bombay students.