In its bid to ensure that its students are hale and hearty, the University of Pune (UoP) have put up posters in every department, informing them that help was at hand at the on campus health centre in case anybody required it.
After launching a unique project of providing psychological counselling to students residing on campus last year, the health centre authorities reached a conclusion that students with such issues were reluctant to seek help due to social stigma associated with suffering from mental illness or psychological disorders.
“Last year, we initiated the project of psychological counselling on pilot-basis. Though we received nominal response, we realised that we had to reach out to as many students as possible,” Dr Shashikant Dudhgaokar, resident medical officer of the health centre, said.
Commenting on the posters, another official said they were installed to grab students’ attention. “Though many students suffer from problems like sleeplessness or lack of concentration, they are unaware where to go and seek treatment. The posters are doing the job. Several students have approached us with their problems.”
The health centre has appointed two psychological counsellors and a psychiatrist, and students can take advantage of the free counselling sessions offered by them between 2.30 pm and 4 pm from Monday to Saturday.
“Mainly, students residing in hostels approach us. They face problems like -- lack of concentration, unable to adjust with roommates and going blank in exam halls, among others, which can be overcome with counselling sessions. Some have personal problems. If needed, we provide them with medication as well,” Dudhgaokar said.
UoP’s Students’ Welfare Department (SWD) Director Dr Pandit Shelke said initially the project was supposed to start under the SWD, but since the health department has the required infrastructure and expertise, it has been doing the needful.
The right choice
“For the last one year I’ve been suffering from sleeplessness and hair fall. I’m a student of a post-graduate course at the UoP. I know these are symptoms of mental stress, which I’m feeling due to the academic pressure. I finally decided to seek help from the counsellor after I failed to find a solution to destress and perform better in the exam,” a student said.
Just for students
The UoP constructed the health centre in 1962 to provide affordable medical treatment to students, especially those residing in hostels on its campus. The centre has a routine OPD, x-ray unit, pathology lab, dental unit, ayurvedic and homeopathy unit. Surprisingly, despite having a separate department for psychology on its campus, it was not until last year that the varsity administration thought of starting psychological counselling sessions. It was senior IAS officer and former Officiating Vice-Chancellor Dr Sanjay Chahande who directed the health department to initiate the counselling project.