The project, titled Emotional Assessment of Students by Educators (EASE), has started its program for medical students, who will later extend support to students in other streams. Student suicides are at an all-time high, with 13,044 students dying by suicide in India in 2022, averaging approximately 36 students every day.
Both teachers and medical professionals have minimal training when it comes to identifying and then intervening with suicide. Studies have consistently shown that early interventions with youth that have thoughts about suicide or suicidal behaviours significantly reduce the length and severity of the suicidal thoughts and behaviours Project EASE, (Emotional Assessment of Students by Educators) an initiative to help prevent suicides among students has taken off to a good start, with more than 1000 medical students being trained in less than 50 days across seven colleges. Project EASE evolved through American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) leadership headed by Dr Ravi Kolli following the advice of chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
The training was conducted in medical colleges where students gathered together on different dates and timings and finished the online QPR gatekeeper training simultaneously. “The highest youth suicide rate is in India because of stigma, and inadequate resources to target mental health. Many people including youth at risk for suicide do not see health care professionals in the critical weeks, days, or hours before they harm themselves. However, friends, family, teachers can help if they know how to recognize and respond to suicide risk. Gatekeeper training teaches people who work with youth, to identify those who are showing warning signs of suicide risk and help these children get the services they need,” says Dr.Aparna Vuppala, Director of Project EASE, and a child & adolescent Psychiatrist.Project EASE is aimed at promoting emotional well-being, through early identification and assessment of student mental health, and referrals to mental health professionals. Through a unique cascade training, the goal is to reach a total of 3 lakh students (from kindergarten (KG) to college students) via teachers, and facilitate referrals to counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
With student suicides at an all-time high, the need for the hour is more attention to how suicide in students can be prevented. Focussing on key factors that contribute to student suicide, project EASE is a 5-step programme which aims to train the people who students come in contact with most often in their day to day lives. “This project was started after chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy told us that he wanted to address student mental health. We worked on developing a comprehensive program based on his input to prevent suicides and improve mental health. We are happy this has started and received a good response,” says Dr. Vasudeva Reddy, NRI medical affairs advisor, state government.
“We are happy to be partnering with the state government to launch this pioneering evidence-based initiative that we hope will help address the scourge of student suicides. We hope that other states will follow suit,” says Nelson Vinod Moses, Founder and CEO of Suicide Prevention India Foundation.