Friday, September 10, 2010

IITs, IIMs get in-house shrinks to beat stress

If getting into any of these premier institutes is difficult, coping with the pressure once inside is even more difficult. A realization that students in a premier institute wake up to once they walk into the campus. Amid the most hectic and tough academic schedules and with the pressure to perform, they realize that stress is their worst enemy. Be it at the 100-year-old IISc or IIT in Mumbai or Chennai or the IIM-B, stress has become a raging campus epidemic. Almost all the institutes have counsellors on campus, both student counsellors and professionals. The latter are approached only when the internal centre cannot handle the case.

Dr. Nalini Dwarakanath, psychologist and social counsellor at IISc, told TOI that she counselled many students every month. There are months when there are hardly any cases and times when there are many, she said. Though counselling days are twice a week, if needed, she goes to the campus on other days as well. In IIT Madras, there is a guidance and counselling unit a student counsellor is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and a psychiatrist available at the IIT Hospital. IIT Mumbai has an on-campus hospital and on its rolls are part-time psychologists and psychiatrists. At least one doctor is on campus every day. IIM-B has a 15-member student body called Mitr and a parent body called Vishwas that consists of professional counsellors.

The problems faced by the students range from feelings of loneliness and depression to stress caused by increasing academic demands. The issues don't have to be confined to the classroom. It could be homesickness or a case of academic backlog or even an affair gone awry. We need to remember that these students are nothing more than teenagers or boys and girls in their early 20s, a faculty member from IIT Mumbai said. At IIM-Bangalore, the cases are seen more during the time of placements and exams. The summer placements are during November first week. And in September there are exams. It is mostly first year students who come to the centres as the second year students would have been accustomed to the system by then. "I feel that the cases have come down over the years as the students are mainly people with work experience and they know what they are walking into," said Abhishek Mittal, Mitr volunteer.

The counsellors frequently get students who are worked up with various issues. There are students who come by their own to me. In some cases, they go to the health centre with problems related to stomach and sleeplessness. "When the centre realises that there is nothing physically wrong with them, they refer the student to me. Sometimes even the professors and guides send them," said Dr. Nalini.

The cases at IISc are usually divided into the stages of their course programme --- first year, second year and so on. Students who are in their second and third year of research go through mental agony when their projects don't go well. They lose heart, tend to change the project and even think of discontinuing.

Source: The Times of India, September 10, 2010
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