Suicide in academia: High expectations and shame

Feature Article

Written by:

All Desi parents want their children to do well in school. But while they might admit it or not, many of their reasons are unhealthy. And even with the best intentions, their pressure to do well in school pushes many of their kids to the point of no return.

Is the cost of life worth it?

Parents believe that their kids are an extension of themselves. So poor academic performance is both an embarrassment and does not give them anything to brag about. Another reason parents push their children to excel is because they believe the kids will eventually have a better quality of life than the current one. They claim that after school ends there will be financial gains. Which in turn obviously means better quality of life.

Besides the counseling that  the students obviously need. Parents who put pressure on their children to excel at all cost need counseling too. Your children aren’t a vessel for you to live out your unfulfilled dreams!

But while setting audacious life goals, do we ask the students how this pressure affects them? How they are handling it emotionally and mentally? If they are making too many sacrifices at the cost of poor health?

We don’t. Or else the suicide rate among the Asian youth wouldn’t be as high as they are.

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) conducted a study on the growing number of suicides in India among school and college-going students. The study revealed that about 11 percent of college students and about 7 to 8 percent of high school students have attempted suicide. The survey comprised 1,500 school and college students.

In an earlier study, it was found that 20 percent of the children had subclinical depression (meaning they are almost depressed) and about 30 percent had mild to moderate depression. Here, about 800 students took part in the survey. [MOI]

Sure, there are a combination of factors that cause these youths to attempt suicide. But nothing compares to the chronic stress that is caused by the responsibilities of school.

Almost 40 percent of parents say their high-schooler is experiencing a lot of stress from school, according to a new NPR poll conducted with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. In most cases, that stress is from academics, not social issues or bullying, the poll found.

Homework was a leading cause of stress, with 24 percent of parents saying it’s an issue. [NPR]

If parents are admitting homework is an issue, then we must dive deeper into other concerns that they aren’t aware of. Besides homework students have the pressure of:

  • standardized testsIndian students
  • multitasking
  • sleep deprivation
  • exams/ group projects / quizzes
  • extracurricular activities (clubs and sports)
  • social pressures (bullying, relationships, peer pressure)
  • college preparation
  • grades / GPA / rankings
  • and of course, parents expectations

We are expecting someone between the age of 5 and 20 to juggle more responsibilities than a 50-year-old would have to. While not realizing that their brain is still developing as are their emotional tools.

Besides the counseling that  the students obviously need. Parents who put pressure on their children to excel at all cost need counseling too. Your children aren’t a vessel for you to live out your unfulfilled dreams!

Fortunately their is light at the end of the tunnel. The suicide rate among students is so high that it has caused both parents and school personnel to intervene.

Some students also are taking classes intended to help ease their anxiety. Sadhana Panuganti, the parent of a middle school student and a Naperville North graduate, teaches a meditation class for youth on Mondays at the Alive Community Center in Naperville.

Panuganti, who is affiliated with the Heartfulness Institute, said teens are facing stress from social pressures, as well as expectations from parents and teachers.

“Sometimes it can be overwhelming,” she said.

Meditation gives youth the tools to empower them to fight the “flight” response that is triggered when students experience stress. She said by calming them down, students can see the situation from a different perspective.

“We teach them to cope with all their feelings,” Panuganti said.

Academic institutions and parents are working together to help students balance responsibilities and their mental well being. These include:

  • starting school a little later so the Young student in classstudents are not sleep deprived
  • cutting down on homework
  • limiting access to view grades digitally
  • counseling
  • helping with time management
  • encouraging meditation
  • encouraging taking breaks
  • mentoring from upperclassmen

Understandably, the real world is competitive and you have to put in extra effort to succeed. But not being at the top is not failure. And the sacrifices paid  to get to the top cannot be students’ mental health or their life.

If you’re a parent or anyone that sees a young person struggling with the demands of academia, hopefully you offer to help any way you can. Or at the very least, listen to them vent. Just knowing that someone cares and will listen helps these young students know that they are not alone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *