During the last couple of years there have been instances, though infrequent, of students committing suicide in West Bengal for many reasons. One important reason has been intense academic pressure and the development of an inferiority complex out of social humiliations.
With social media expanding with its negative toxicities, instances of humiliation going viral coupled with trolls, push the youngster towards taking that extreme step.
In June this year, days after the results of the higher secondary examination were announced, 18-year-old Supti Halder (name changed), a resident of Malda district of the state, committed suicide by hanging herself as she failed to qualify in the examinations.
But a young teacher in the school where Supti was a student, found out that one development had led to another and finally pushed the student to suicide.
It was learnt that the girl was already under pressure from her family to get high scores in the higher secondary examinations which made her tense inside. And after her failure to pass the examination, that pressure turned into humiliation from her family members as well as her relatives.
This pressure of social humiliation prompted her to join the agitation by other unsuccessful students in front of the office of the district inspector of schools, where she was soon seen taking the leading and the most vocal role raising slogans demanding granting of qualifying marks to the unsuccessful students.
Soon her face went viral through the media and there started a wave of social media humiliation and trolls questioning her audacity to participate in the protest even after not qualifying in the examinations.
This became intolerable for Supti and she decided to take the extreme step.
According to Dr Tirthankar Guha Thakurta, a faculty with a Kolkata-based college and hospital and a visiting faculty with the department of psychology of Calcutta University, from the entire sequence of events it is evident that first her parents and teachers and subsequently a section of the netizens active on social media are actually responsible for pushing the girl to commit suicide.
Guha Thakurta said: “Every student has his or her own academic consumption ability. In this particular case, first the parents refused to acknowledge that and even before the examination they continued putting pressure on her. But when it did not work and she failed to qualify, started the phase of humiliation from her close circle, who could have easily sympathised with her and encouraged her to do better next time.
“In my opinion, the constant humiliation prompted her to take part in the protest as she thought it to be the last resort to stop this humiliation. But the poor girl did not realize that this step of her will attract more vociferous humiliation from a wider spectrum in the form of trolls, who never even tried to recognize the desperation of the girl to join the protest.
“Previously, in our times the pressure was only from the inner quarters and now the pressure is from multiple quarters. That is the tragedy of the negative impact of increasing social media toxicity,” Guha Thakurta said.
According to academic administrator Suchismita Bagchi Sen, the pressure of achievement on the students which was focused mainly on the academic perspective earlier has now become diversified.
Sen said: “Besides nurturing the dream of their kids turning out to be an Albert Einstein or an Amartya Sen or a Kalpana Chawla, the parents also nurture the parallel dreams of their kids to be a PT Usha or Sachin Tendulkar or Lata Mangeshkar. So, for the students the extra-curricular activities like sports or music also have been wrapped in competition.”
She noted: “In the midst of all this, the basic point that the parents or the teachers are missing is entering into a dialogue with the students, identifying their areas of interest and strong points and steering them accordingly.”