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Ministry of Education issues UMMEED draft guidelines to prevent student suicides in India

Amid rising cases of student suicides in Rajasthan’s Kota, which is the coaching hub pre-medical and pre-engineering exams, the Government of India has issued a guideline to prevent any tendency of self harm among students at school level. The purpose is to increase awareness, understanding and preventing students from taking any bold step causing self harm.
The Ministry of Education, Government of India released UMMEED (Understand, Motivate, Manage, Empathise, Empower & Develop), a set of draft guidelines on Tuesday. The draft guidelines are based on the principle “Every Child Matters”. The Government also seeks public feedback on the same.
The draft guidelines read, “‘Every Child Matters’ is the underlying belief in developing the Guidelines for prevention of suicide. With this vision, efforts need to be directed towards prevention of suicide in schools. The guidelines provide directions to schools for enhancing sensitivity, understanding, and providing support in case of reported self-harm.”

UMMEED Guidelines

The guidelines suggest the following:
>A School Wellness Team headed by the Principal should be constituted in all institutes – “When a student displaying warning signs has been identified by any stakeholder, they need to be reported to the SWT, which takes immediate action… The School Wellness Team and other stakeholders should meet at regular intervals to reflect on their experiences in implementing the guidelines and analyse the feedback received to identify areas that require improvement,” the guidelines mention.
The above team will also play a crucial role in the execution of school programmes aimed at raising mental health awareness and preventing suicide. While the SWT will be headed by the Principal or head of the institution, it will comprise a representative of the school management committee, teachers and support staff, school medical officer or nurse and counsellor. Every school should conduct an annual evaluation of the SWT’s performance.
>Empty Classrooms should be kept under lock and key. There should be no dark corners, areas or corridors in the school premises which is not under surveillance. Even long grasses making a bush should be trimmed.
> Students who might be at risk of self-harm or anyone showing warning signs should be identified and quick response and support should be provided to students who need help- “Immediate response to at-risk can be categorised into two levels. The first pertains to students who are displaying warning signs… The other addresses those students who are actively taking steps to harm themselves,” the guidelines mention.
> Integrating mental well-being in school functioning – “An important step in this direction is to enhance their knowledge and encourage peer support, organizing activities on a regular basis for relaxing and reducing stress, providing channels for expression, compiling resources to seek support, integrating mental well-being in school functioning, creating a safe environment in school and beyond including vigilance at railway tracks, river banks, bridges, cliffs, medical shops, etc,” the guidelines mention.
> Sensitivity and understanding towards students should be increased in schools
>Stigma surrounding suicide and mental health should be combated
>Tendency of competing students against each other should be curbed

Rising cases of student suicides in Kota

The draft guidelines come amid rising cases of student suicides in Rajasthan’s Kota, which is popular as the hub of coaching for UPSC, Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) for engineering and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical colleges. However, Kota has been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons since the past few months. Till now at least 26 students have allegedly ended their lives by committing suicide in Kota.
On 27th September, another student reportedly killed himself taking the total number of suicides reported in the coaching hub this year to 27. The deceased has been identified as 20-year-old Mohammad Tanveer, a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Maharajganj, who was found hanging in his room, as per the police. He was reportedly preparing for the NEET.
Very recently, The Government of Rajasthan has issued a set of guidelines for coaching centres in the educational hub, Kota, with the aim of curbing the rising cases of student suicides in the city.