53% Indian university students are suffering from moderate to severe depression due to lockdown

Coronavirus has made life difficult for several university students. Their placements are affected, their interaction with peers has reduced and they are unable to learn using practical methods. The physical space provided by universities is tailored to suit a student’s curiosity and foster a learning environment.

A study published in Asian Journal of Psychiatry suggests that as many as 53% of Indian university students suffer from moderate to severe depression. The study aimed to decode depression among Indian university students.


“Findings disclosed that 37.7%, 13.1%, and 2.4% of the students were suffering from moderate, severe, and extremely severe depression. A significant difference was found across semester, that is, semester II students reported a higher level of depression than semester III students. So far as academic stream is concerned, students from humanities and social science were found to be suffering from more depression compared to students from science and management streams,” the researchers wrote.


The problem is not unique to India alone. According to a study published in Plos One, 45% of students who were surveyed were suffering from high levels of psychological impact as a result of Covid-19.


The problem with online learning


The problem with online learning is that students are less accountable and can be lying on their bed while listening to lectures on the phone. Certain students might suffer because there’s not enough space in their house for studying, some may experience erratic internet connectivity and some may use unfair means while giving examinations.


For teachers too, online learning has made the job more difficult. They have no way to gauge a student’s sincerity and are probably aware of the fact that most people see online classes as a formality. They can’t give everyone personal attention because that would increase their workload multiple times.


For many of us, college is the time we make lifelong friends. We experience a myriad range of emotions and learn a lot about interpersonal communication. It’s especially affected first year students who are unable to build rapport with strangers on the internet. “The situation of these first-year students is not the same as the ones in higher classes who at least know their classmates. Many of these students are new to college and are complete strangers to one another. There is absolutely no physical interaction… The emotional quotient of many would have taken a hit… Their age demands it, they need to socialise,” Vidya Patil, a teacher from DG Ruparel told The Times of India.


Why the culture of seeking help is important


In India, people take offence if you recommend that they see a psychiatrist. An alarmingly high rate of people suffer in silence while seeking medical intervention would significantly ease their anxiety and depression symptoms.


According to a study conducted by The Live Love Laugh Foundation, the attitude towards mentally ill people was found to be alarmingly poor. 68% people felt that mentally ill people should not be given any responsibility and 46% people felt that one should maintain a safe distance from depressed people. A significant percentage (60%) also felt that lack of willpower and self-discipline were the biggest causes for mental illness.


In a country where students are under immense pressure from a young age, this apathy doesn’t signal good things. We must realize that taking a pill to control an anxiety attack is as normal as taking an antacid to control indigestion. Ostracizing people with mental illness will only worsen their symptoms and a culture of acceptance needs to be developed.


Conclusion


We often say that college days are the best and they never come back. Today’s students are being robbed of that experience and it’s something they can’t make up for later. Eating in a college canteen, driving to a beach with friends, going for parties and reading in a library – these are all experiences that help in personal growth and personality development.


Even though we are vaccinating at a record level, only 33.4% of the population has received the first dose and only 9.5% has been fully vaccinated till 26th August, 2021. It’ll take a long time for colleges to open up to full capacity. Until then, allowing some students (on a rotational basis) inside the university premises could help.


References:


1. Impact of lockdown on mental health of students (India Today)

2. Depression among Indian university students and its association with perceived university academic environment, living arrangements and personal issues (Asian Journal of Psychiatry)

3. ‘If study-from-home continues, it could hurt college students’ emotional health’ (The Times Of India)

4. ‘How India Perceives Mental Health’ (The Live Love Laugh Foundation)