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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in India, Social Issues, Social Service, TG Roundup, USA

Dying Young

Side-impact accidents are often deadly

The Indian community in the US and around the world is shocked by the untimely death of four Indian students at University of Missouri, Rolla.

Sunday morning, a group of five headed to the Lake of the Ozarks to do some shopping, maybe even for some of their family back home.  “One of the students was actually planning to go visit his family in India on Tuesday,” says Venkat Allada, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies at Missouri S&T.

Heading west on Highway 42 in Miller County just after 10:30 Sunday morning, the car crossed the center line and was hit broadside by a pickup.

Friends soon learned the driver, 22 year old Murali Bottu, was critically injured.  But they heard no news about the rest.  “We just thought the most serious guy would be taken care of first.  So the thing we had in mind was, ok, these guys had small injuries, and probably they’re in nearby hospitals.  We had hope,” says Gandikota.

Four or five hours later, they learned four of their friends were killed.  “It’s been pretty hard on all of us,” says Gandikota.

24 year old Srupen Reddy Velumula, 22 year old Sri Harsha Chitturi, 21 year old Srikanth Ravi, and 23 year old Dheeraj Gudlawar were all pronounced dead at the scene.

[Full article from ky3 here]

How do we deal with such tragic news? Personally, I deal with it by pretending nothing has happened and not think about it. I know it is not right – but it served me reasonably well.

Suicides by the Young

This is another unfortunate reality. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surpassed only by accidents and homicide. I am in the academic world where we often hear about students committing suicide. Whether we know the student personally or not, all of use get distraught when such sad news hits home. Once such incident happened recently at GMU, where I teach.

Nathaniel Bresler, an UNH Student who committed suicide

Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, March 1, a University of New Hampshire sophomore, 20-year-old Nathaniel Bresler, committed suicide by lying down in front of an oncoming train.

Bresler, of Bow, N.H., transferred to UNH from George Mason University in Virginia this semester as a political science major.

At 12:15 a.m., Bresler’s Facebook status was updated from a blackberry phone to read, “I’m sorry everyone. please forgive me.”At approximately 12:22 a.m. Tuesday, Amtrak officials notified the Durham Police Department that an eastbound train struck a person on the railroad tracks about 50 feet from the Bennett Road Overpass in Durham, Durham Deputy Police Chief Rene Kelley said in a statement Tuesday.

[Full article here]

What prompted me to write this sad note today is an e-mail I got from the IIT-M alumni mailer, which alerted me to a  recent bout of suicides at IIT-M.

May 9, 2011

On Wednesday afternoon, Nitin Kumar Reddy, a final year mechanical engineering student from IIT, Madras committed suicide.

Nitin left a Facebook message on the wall that read: “I fought hard but lost.”

There is more to that final post than what meets the eye. It is not just Nitin.

In the past five months three students from the same institution (including V. Anoop from the same department) have ended their life. Faculty members and officials say that such incidents cannot be attributed to academic pressure alone, but call for immediate attention.

“This is a complex issue that needs to be addressed. No one can say it’s because of academic pressure. There could be several reasons,” says M. Govardhan, dean (students) at IIT-M.

[Full article here]

Three suicides in five months at my alma matter! That is too much. The news reminded me of an incident that happened about 25 years ago. Back in the mid 1980s, IIT-M decided to put ceiling fans in each of the hostel (dorm) rooms. They were installing them one hostel at a time and our (Tapati) turn wouldn’t come for another year or so. I paid a maintenance worker to install a hook and then brought my own fan. A couple of years or so after I left, I was told that a student who occupied that room has hung himself to the very same hook I got installed. It was eerie.

What is an administration to do? The following is from the e-mail I got this morning via IIT-M Alumni network.

The unfortunate suicide of Nitin Kumar Reddy on 4thMay has upset all of us in IIT Madras….

This unfortunate incident of the suicide happened too suddenly for the system to react constructively. It is extremely unusual for a final year student with many friends on campus to take such precipitate action. All the faculty concerned with student activities headed by the Dean have already begun discussions with students in an effort to come to terms with this unfortunate occurrence and to find ways  by which such cases can be better monitored and dealt with by the system.

-Director, IIT-Chennai

As a faculty at a major US university, I can say with confidence that there is support network in place to prevent such tragic events. But, the real work has to be done at home. As a parent, all I can say about such news is that there is nothing in this world more tragic to any person than knowing his/her offspring died at such an young age. I hope the families of these youth gather courage to deal with such reality. For the rest of us, it won’t hurt to educate ourselves more about this issue.

Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include:

  • a psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug use (in fact, approximately 95% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at the time of death)
  • feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation
  • feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression (a teen, for example, who experiences repeated failures at school, who is overwhelmed by violence at home, or who is isolated from peers is likely to experience such feelings)
  • a previous suicide attempt
  • a family history of depression or suicide (depressive illnesses may have a genetic component, so some teens may be predisposed to suffer major depression)
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation
  • dealing with homosexuality in an unsupportive family or community or hostile school environment

Warning Signs

Suicide among teens often occurs following a stressful life event, such as a perceived failure at school, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major family conflict.

A teen who is thinking about suicide might:

  • talk about suicide or death in general
  • talk about “going away”
  • talk about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty
  • pull away from friends or family
  • lose the desire to take part in favorite things or activities
  • have trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
  • experience changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • self-destructive behavior (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or driving too fast, for example)

[Full article here]

If parents are constantly fighting between themselves, or worse, heading for a divorce – it is likely that the teens blame it on themselves and consider suicide. It is suspected that one of the reasons for the recent suicide of the former GMU student (mentioned above) was that his parents recently got separated.

1 Comment

  1. Shocking Follow-up: ..dean of students Govardhan M said, “Why are you always reporting negative news about IIT Madras? We also have the maximum number of patents but you didn’t report that. But you would want to report the death of 3 out of 5000 students which is statistically not important. Why don’t you go to other engineering institutes and find out how many died there. Why only IIT?” How much more stupid one can get in a situation like this? This dean is pathetic and has no business being the dean.

    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-06/chennai/29515802_1_iit-m-iit-student-iit-madras