I was strolling around the Sunway Monash Campus in Malaysia, last week while on holiday. It was a beautiful campus, with everything a student can possibly ask for. There were tall buildings that boasted of fine intellect and academic rigor and you could almost smell the cortisol floating around while students were prancing around ‘ checking the boxes’. However, I also felt a certain eeriness while inside the campus because of another reality I was aware of. Unnoticed and hidden under the pride and acclaim of everything Monash claims to be, is a dark cloud of pain and anguish- student suicides.
I won’t go into the details here, out of respect for those who lost their lives and their families, but there have been quite a few students who have taken their own lives while and after studying at Monash University, Malaysia. A number of them-international students. However, apart from ‘regretfully’ releasing statements, there appears to be little else done via the university to work towards suicide prevention.
While walking around campus, and while using public transport i.e. the BRT, I saw lonely eyes glued to mobile devices and computers and I couldn’t help but wonder about how their hearts were. What were they feeling?. Were they feeling at all?. Did they have someone to tell them that they are loved and cared for- or was their worth solely based on how academically sound they were. I was thinking about those lives lost to suicide. What were they like? What were their stories? Who did they leave behind?
What do we do with the residual traces of what’s left behind? The lingering vapor of hearts riddled with pain,guilt and loneliness, about low grades, failed exams, friends who have failed them and families who have shamed them.
We have two choices;
- To pretend that it never happened and move on with our lives.
- To create a more compassionate world collectively.
I obviously advocate for the second choice.
A few pointers for students studying at Monash,Malaysia and their parents
- Expectations! Expectations! Expectations!- Manage them.
- Check on your son/daughter often. You are not being a pain in the behind, just a caring parent.
- Ask after their mental health- not just whether they are eating well or not.
- Teach your child about coping with failure and learn some of that yourself.
- Provide options not dead-end’s.
- Check on your friends often. A simple ‘ how is your day going?’ would do.
- Take your eyes off your smart phone and look someone else in the eye and let them know that you care.
- As much as it looks ‘cool’ to make someone else feel like ****, it’s way cooler to help someone out. It doesn’t take much of your precious time.
- Quit laughing about suicide and poking fun at people who may talk about wanting to harm themselves. Help them seek support.
- Please stop the ‘hate’ on social media and on pages like this. It only adds to the pain.
- Take care of your mental health as much as you do your physical health.
For Monash, Malaysia and other universities around the world:
- Check on the well-being of your students- not just their attendance and grades.
- Reach out to students who may be having trouble adjusting and actively support them. It really does not take up too many resources.
- Include life skills and coping skills education in your curriculum. A degree is not just a piece of paper it is also about life.
- Identify suicide hotspots on campus and take measures to prevent further suicides from taking place.
- Talk about suicide prevention in your campus and do not just slip difficult conversations under the carpet.
Here’s to a healthy, compassionate world.