When it comes to education, it is a rarity when people discuss psychological impact of academics on students. Education has become a rat race for those involved, which offers little respite, comfort, or satisfaction. In school, those who score the highest are pushed into opting for science or commerce, and only the most ‘creatively rebellious’ or ‘non-academic’ take humanities. Those who don’t perform well are separated from those who do. Those who don’t perform well are sent off for ‘remedial classes’ without school authorities realising the stigma or pressure that eventually gets linked to such divisions – for countless reasons, students don’t wish to be tagged.
In college, focus shifts from getting into a good university to getting the highest yearly package with which you enter the professional world. For this, students continue to burn the midnight oil to reach a little closer to the goals they either set for themselves or are forced into accepting as their own. Whether they deliver as per expectations or not, the tension and stress remain constant. Often, this results in psychological complications such as depression and anxiety, which, owing to the societal outlook, continue to go unchecked, untreated, and repressed. This is where schools and universities need to step in and provide facilities that are easily accessible, so that those who may be struggling with familial or personal battles, have the comfort of knowing that regardless of their situation, they have a space available that is devoid of judgement.
There is more to education than attendance, marks, and classroom participation – there are students who wish to explore and shape themselves in areas that don’t lie within the classroom’s four walls. There are those who may simply need a break from studies to reshape their ambitions and goals. If there is no space for students to express all that they desire, then the practice of segregating fields in the academic and professional arenas become futile. To bring uniformity in education by imposing classroom knowledge is to kill creativity and diversity. The moment an external force attempts to do that, the repercussions may manifest themselves in triggering psychological distress in the receivers.
It is of no surprise, therefore, that very few universities and colleges in India provide in-campus counselling to students that’s available during official hours, and address issues unrelated to career plans. A recent university graduate, Kalpana Mishra* offers suggestions such as the need to have more organisations working with universities and colleges to create awareness and provide a more stable platform for students, and sensitisation drives for students from an early age. Similarly, Aashima Bansal* calls for greater acceptability by outlining the need to see counselling as a medium of exploring oneself, instead of believing it to be a “corrective” option. To make the academic circle healthier, more inclusive, and tolerant of diverse needs and requirements, it is important for higher authorities to take note of suggestions coming from personal experiences, and taking strong administrative actions based on them.
Of course, it is not to say that the whole scenario paints an exceptionally bleak picture – there are many success stories pertaining to mental health amongst students where they actively participate in counselling sessions to overcome specific difficulties or challenges due to their socio-economic surroundings, which allows them to reach out more efficiently; but the main challenge is for people and support groups (in professional, academic, or domestic spaces) to identify and help those who may be struggling in ways unknown to many others. Only then can one dare to hope for a better future.
Note: All names have been changed.