Guiding lights

More and more colleges are focusing on counselling their students

Help is at hand: At Hansraj College, students undergo a department-wise orientation, in addition to overall orientation | Aayush Goel Help is at hand: At Hansraj College, students undergo a department-wise orientation, in addition to overall orientation | Aayush Goel

As many as 26,500 students committed suicide between 2014 and 2016. This number reflects the stress students undergo. To start with, there is always pressure to get into a good college. Moreover, when a student gets admission to a college, he enters a new environment, makes new friends and takes on a new curriculum. For many, this is also the first time away from parents.

Keeping all these points in mind, colleges are understanding the importance of guiding students. Campuses are seeing more counselling programmes, induction and orientation sessions, and values and ethics modules. Nowadays, most colleges also have an in-house counsellor.

Abhiram Jadhav, a second-year student at H.R. College in Mumbai, had a tough time in his first year. An introvert with a stammer, he found it difficult to cope with his new surroundings and interact with people. “I used to miss my brother so much,” says Jadhav. “I would flunk classes because of my lack of confidence and felt like a stranger on the campus for eight months. That is when my brother took me to a psychologist in Pune.”

Jadhav has now settled down and made friends not just in his class, but with some teachers as well. He laments the absence of a guidance mechanism, a mentor whom he could reach out to, and empathises with newcomers.

Many students go through similar trauma. And, in such a situation, it becomes imperative for colleges to have helplines and a guidance team. In 2016, after massive outrage over the suicide of a dalit research scholar at the University of Hyderabad, the UGC had asked all universities to institute a student counselling system.

Colleges, for their part, have promptly adhered to the directions and consider it key for their student-friendly image. Miranda House in Delhi is going to start an online counselling service for its students. The college has signed a memorandum of understanding with a mental health services provider. At nearby Hansraj College, apart from the overall orientation, students also undergo a department-wise orientation. “The teacher-student relationship is one of the USPs of Hansraj College,” says principal Rama Sharma. “Students these days want to be heard, as they come from nuclear families with working parents. Our teachers give a lot of attention, especially to first-year students.”

At St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, a group of students is assigned a teacher as a guide so that they have someone to fall back on. “We feel that parents need to grow up with children, so we also have parents being counselled,” says principal Agnelo Menezes.

Narsee Monjee College of Comme-rce and Economics in Mumbai has an entire module on stress management, assertiveness training and emotional intelligence.

Abhay Singhal, founder of the psychological therapy platform TickTalkTo, says that even though colleges have counsellors, they need to do a lot more. The problem is that, despite having a counsellor at college, many students hesitate in approaching them because they do not want to be seen as having mental issues. This is where an anonymous app like TickTalkTo helps.

The All India Council for Technical Education, in its revised curriculum, has incorporated the mental well-being of students. It has made induction programme mandatory for engineering colleges. According to AICTE guidelines, students will have to follow a daily routine of physical activity, including yoga. The programme will also be used to rectify some critical lacunae, like holding special English classes for those who are weak in it.