A panel discussion on “prevention of suicides” was organized jointly by centre for women’s studies and dean student welfare office on 05.09.18 at CVRaman Auditorium at 3.00pm. The programme was coordinated by Prof Rekha Pande, Head, Centre for Women’s Studies and Dr G.Padmaja, Deputy DSW and Assistant Professor, Centre for Health Psychology. The Chief guest of the Programme was Prof P.Prakash Babu, PVC 2 and Dean I/C School of Medical Sciences. The Panelists who participated in the discussion included Prof Saroj Arya, Clinical Psychologist, Ms Mandakini, Legal Counsellor, Ms Anusha Rao, Psychological Counsellor in social service, Dr Hymavathi, Psychological Counsellor, Univ of Hyderabad and Mr Subhash, Psychological Counsellor, Univ of Hyderabad.

Welcoming the audience, Dr G. Padmaja, presented some facts on statistics related to suicides and highlighted the growing recognition within the University of Hyderabad on mental health. She said that the University is seriously making efforts to design preventive interventions to help and support the students in distress. She shared in this context that in recent meeting for this purpose, Vice Chancellor urged for identification and implementation of relevant strategies aimed at addressing this issue.

Prof. Debashis Acharya in his opening remarks emphasized on the University’s attempts to help students deal with the issues of life and provide support to prevent Suicides. In the wake of recent suicides in the university, there has been a counselling mechanism established by two counsellors – Dr Hymavathi and Mr Subash He highlighted the importance of such programmes for offering a helping hand to students who are in need of support and cannot understand who to approach and what can be done.

Prof. Rekha Pande explained in her Introduction of the theme, why this programme has been conceived and initiated. She portrayed the comparative analysis of facts and figures of suicides across the world and in India. She presented the statistical picture of suicides across the country over the years and the contemporary picture. She firmly emphasized on the need for protecting valuable lives. She pointed to some recent attempts and suicides with varying reasons among the young students against the background of which the present programme has been conceived by her and further supported by DSW and Deputy DSWs.

Prof. Prof. Prakash Babu, PVC-II, has cautioned the students about the several phases of realities of life. He highlighted the individual differences in understanding and dealing with the reality of circumstances and situations. He said that everyone of us can contribute either directly or indirectly in order to cease or at least barricade the occurrence of suicides. He emphasized upon the role of society including friends, teachers and other in helping the person in need. Identifying any major changes in the behavior of a student by fellow students and teachers was emphasized. Preventing and dealing with stress is important for everyone across age groups, especially during the sensitive age and contexts of younger generation.

The Panel discussion was then declared open by the PVC 2 Prof Prakash Babu.

Dr G.Padmaja introduced the Panelists to the audience. The panelists made brief presentations and this was followed by Q&A session.

Dr Saroj Arya a Senior clinical psychologist, Professor in clinical psychology at Sweekar Academy of Rehabilitation Center, Secunderabad discussed about the Global and Indian picture of Suicides and factors contributing to the same across age groups. She emphasized on depression as a major contributor and about mood disordes as well as thought disorders. Depression not addressed timely may be the reason for Suicides and hence she emphasized that identifying and addressing the same is important. She highlighted the symptoms of depression explaining the warning signs of depression. Suicides can be prevented by Parents, teachers, counselors and mass media at various levels- Individual, family & community. She explained the steps counselors take and interventions like dealing with the emotion, talk and provide help. She explained appropriate methods of care to prevent Suicides.Her talk concluded with the direction to the youth that One needs to be cognizant that “Pain is temporary and suicide is permanent”.

Ms. Mandakini talked about various stresses of life for a young adolescent and adult as well as ways of dealing with it. Stress is the main cause of suicide and a response to the demands made upon us by the environment. An overload of stress can give rise to problems like anxiety and physical problems. Hence she said one needs to relax. She mentioned about methods of relaxation which vary individually and methods of stress management.

Ms. Anusha Rao emphasized on counting blessings and banking on positive thoughts rather than negative thoughts. She talked about the stages a person passes through when he/she decides to end the life. She referred to the thoughts behind these stages and urged that such thoughts need to be identified get rid of them, reinforce positive thoughts, start loving and respecting themselves. She pointed to the students that it is absolutely normal to seek professional help to deal with the problems in life.

Dr. Hymavathy talked about her experiences with community at University of Hyderabad. It is understood that a multitude of students at UoH are reeling under personal and social stresses and in this regard, both the counselors are available for help and support. She talked about how students can use the services of the Professional Psychological counselors in an atmosphere of trust and share their thoughts and issues – academic, emotional, social and personal stresses. During times where the students easily lose hope on their aspirations out of stress, she said professional help can be sought and pointed that counseling is helpful. Counseling is not just about helping to solve the problems but also in the process assist in developing a stronger version of the student. This is possible by invoking independent thinking, bring their resilience back, making them think of alternative choices and a sense of direction.

Mr. Subhash highlighted the indicators where help is required for a student. He provided the summarization of the symptoms to understand the person’s state and the warning signals.

Prof. Meena Hariharan urged students to join hands with Faculty and vise versa to form teams to help people on campus in prevention of Suicides. With the help of success stories she showcased how people who undergo emotional turmoil consider self harm/suicide. However, timely identification of change in an individual’s thoughts and behaviour, seeking and providing help and support can aid a person come out of his/her negative psychological states. Timely support and care would bring a change in their thinking and attitude . She emphasized on professional skills in counseling and not everyone can counsel. She shared that the psychological support provided by Psychologists in Centre for Health Psychology has helped many in the University and such stories are not shared for reasons of confidentiality. In response to certain queries, she said any one in need of support should talk it out, and seek help. She urged girls for example to speak out when they are being exploited in any manner without any fear.

Thus during the first half of the discussion, professionals from both the university community and outside of the community presented helpful information on stress, depression, suicidal ideation, and steps to help self and others facing these issues. Common themes within these presentations were to show empathy and support for others, and to create unbiased, comfortable environments on campus that allow students to discuss issues such as stress from school, family, society, discrimination, and financial issues. Professors were also encouraged be more friendly and approachable so that students feel comfortable with discussing sensitive issues with them. Students were encouraged to seek professional help and to talk to the counselors on campus if they feel that they or someone else may need professional support.

After the presentations, the discussion was open to the public. Many students brought up concerns that they have with the ways the administration handles certain issues on campus. These issues include, anti-discrimination programs, grievance programs, and improving the university’s justice system that students must go through to solve issues they may have. Imbalanced power within the university community and issues with restrictions within academic programs were also brought up. Students also asked for better environments to discuss mental health, stress, and depression. There was a need felt for improvement of teacher-student relationships and showing more concern for their students’ well-being. Some students also expressed concern over whether or not they would be judged for their actions and beliefs within the counseling environment. It was felt that plans should be made to have more activities and discussions that can lead to a more supportive environment on campus, so that students can feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics with others. The faculty and students need to create a more trusting relationship so that more conversations like this can happen in the future.

The concluding remarks by Prof Rekha Pande summarized the whole discussion. All attendees of this panel discussion were urged to pass on the message to other fellow University mates about the need for psychological togetherness and trusted friendship. In case of observation of someone – self or someone else – in need of an emotional and moral help and developing the negative tendencies as discussed in the programme, they were requested to take the professional help of University counselors.

Ms Pavitra Sharma thanked one and all for the active participation and support

-By Ms N.Nagasri and Ms Betsy Cletus Dept of History