“Instead of appearing for the paper and failing in it, I feel like I should commit suicide,” this was the chilling distress call that Rupali Deshmukh, a counsellor listed with the state board received from a teenager appearing for the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examinations.
The teenager was living alone in Nashik city, while his parents worked as farmers in a nearby village. Pic/Thinkstock
She received this frantic call on Tuesday evening around 6.15 pm. The boy was calling from Nashik and was scared of the Physics paper scheduled on Wednesday. His major worry was facing his parents if he failed. In the 15-minute call, Deshmukh was able to talk the boy out of the thought. When she called him back the next day, the boy was feeling much better having appeared for the examination.
Considering the rising stress levels during board examinations, the Maharashtra State Board had declared several help line numbers of counsellors, to help ease the pressure on students appearing for the exams.
While the help line has been of aid to many students and parents calling in with queries ranging from technical glitches to last-minute studies, a call like this is certainly a rare case. The counsellor had talked the child out of his drastic plans, and the next day she spoke to him before the paper as well, to ensure his safety.
Deshmukh said, “When the boy called me, he was quite distressed. He is a bright student and had scored 90 per cent in his SSC examination. But he was so scared of the Physics paper that he was sure he would fail it and, hence, he was contemplating ending his life because he would not be able to face his parents.”
“I had to first calm him down and understand why he is facing this issue. It was important to indulge him in a positive conversation, more so because the boy, who hails from a village near Nashik, was living alone in the city,” Deshmukh added.
Narrating the incident further, Deshmukh said, “I told him how panicking will lead to a situation where he would forget things at the last minute. Then I explained the entire passing formula to him, telling him that it is very difficult to fail in any paper, considering 20 per cent of the marks are already taken care of in the internal assessment.”
Deshmukh added, “I told him what he can focus on solving, to get maximum marks, and how he can avoid wasting time on questions he is unsure about. I also told him considering the different options offered by the state board, not clearing one theory paper would not fail him. In combination with internal marks, he would be able to get passing marks. It would be pointless to end his life for this reason.”
“He was more scared of facing his parents if he failed, so I expressed willingness to speak to his parents. That is when he told me he lives alone in Nashik, while his parents live in a village nearby, where they are farmers,” said Deshmukh.
‘Losing him would be more painful’
The boy told Deshmukh, “They sent me here to study and make something different of my life. But now if I fail, I will be breaking the trust that they put in me while sending me here for better education opportunities.”
Deshmukh said this has been a concern for many children. She explained to him how losing him would be more painful to his parents than him failing an exam, “After a long talk, I was sure that he was out of his suicide plan. But it was important to ensure his safety, so I followed up with him on the next day. As expected, his paper went well.”
When mid-day contacted the father of the boy, he was shocked to know about the incident: “He is away from us. He never mentioned any stress. We would feel bad if he failed the exam but that does not mean he should take such a drastic decision. Our love for him does not change on how he scores in an exam. We are thankful to god that he thought of calling that number and the person helped him.”
Dear parents, communication is key
Dr Seema Hingorani, clinical psychologist and author said, “It is very important that parents communicate with their children on topics other than studies. Children need to know their parents are interested in knowing what is happening in their lives. Parents also need to stop over-expecting and instil a thought in children that they will always love them, no matter what. Emotional strength is equally important while appearing for board examination, and this support can come from parents.”