The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) has stepped up its efforts on providing counseling to students suffering from depression or anxiety. IIT-B made changes to its existing counseling mechanism after observing two suicides and one suicide attempt over the last year.

Even so, the social stigma of undergoing counselling still keeps many students away from the counsellors. A recent article in Insight, the institute’s student newspaper, has highlighted that while the facilities provided by the institute need improvement, students too need to take the initiative to ask for help.

“It’s sad to see that students still don’t approach counsellors when they first start feeling depressed. The competitive atmosphere gets to most of us, especially, since we stay far away from our home. It is important to be vocal about our problems,” said Mihir Kulkarni, one of the editors of Insight.

The article highlights the loopholes, not only in the institute but also in the student community. The mentorship program introduced by IITs across the country — where senior students mentor freshers to help them cope with pressure — has brought about some change.

“The good thing is, that there’s more acknowledgement of stress and pressure amongst the students now, which is very important. But beyond that, we need to address this problem proactively,” added Kulkarni.

Need more counsellors
However, all this still cannot suppress the need for more counsellors on board. At present, IIT-B has two full-time and one visiting counsellor, who visits student hostels and talks to the students regularly. With close to 10,000 students on campus, the three counsellors handle quite a handful, as they meet about 7-8 students everyday.

“The number of students a counsellor sees on a daily basis can vary. But the number of students connecting with the counsellors is showing a steady increase,” said Shivani Manchanda, counselling coordinator at IIT-B. She added that with the new steps taken by the institute, more and more students are sharing their problems.

IIT-B says
While officials at the institute stated that students have not yet approached anyone demanding more counsellors, they didn’t deny the problem. “With three counsellors on board, we are reaching out to as many students as possible. We are still looking to hire more counsellors.

We are already in the process of hiring a fourth counsellor and are also taking active steps to ensure a total outreach program,” said Soumyo Mukherji, student affairs Dean at IIT-B. He added that the management is also in talks to introduce a new counselling center code to the student hostels, but it is yet to be approved.