From Mount Carmel’s to Jyoti Nivas, TNM spoke to arts and science colleges about their counselling services available to students.

Status Check Do prominent Bengaluru colleges have counselling services for students
news Mental health Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - 17:32

In today’s world, where students are burdened with emotional and mental pressure, it’s imperative to have someone who will listen to you. And in the wake of the Me Too movement, as well as law student Raya Sarkar’s list of alleged predators in academia, student counselling has emerged as a necessity.

“Most students find it difficult to open up to their friends and parents. Since some of them live away from home, they have no one to seek help from. Victims of rape, sometimes don’t want to go to the police, but they still need a way to escape from the trauma. At such times, they find it more comfortable to vent out to a stranger. And counsellors are equipped with exercises that encourage students to talk through their problems,” said Sahana Sarkar, a counsellor practising in Bengaluru and Delhi.

In 2016, following the outrage over the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit research scholar in Hyderabad University, the University Grants Commission (UGC) directed all universities to set up student counselling centres. The UGC reiterated its order in March 2018, mandating all universities and higher education institutions to provide counselling facilities to students through trained psychologists.

Still, despite having in-house counsellors, not all students are aware of them. While some students are acquainted with the counsellors, they are not sure if they can address non-academic and personal matters. “We do have counsellors on campus who call us to their cabins when we have attendance shortage. I’m not sure if we can talk to them about other issues,” said a student at Christ University.

It’s also common for students to fear that they’d turn into topics of gossip in the staff room. “Since college campuses are small spaces, there is always a sense of paranoia that one’s secrets might spread among circles. This might deter students from approaching counsellors. But it must be noted that counsellors are bound by client confidentiality. If a counsellor fails to maintain a student’s privacy, the management should be informed and the counsellor’s license may be cancelled,” said Sahana Sarkar.

TNM spoke to five prominent arts and science colleges in Bengaluru, namely Christ University, Jain University, Jyoti Nivas College, St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science and Mount Carmel College about the counselling services available to students.

Jyoti Nivas College (JNC)

The college has one designated counsellor, but all the professors from the Department of Psychology act as counsellors. The college has a psychological wellbeing centre called ‘Manasi’ where students can discuss their personal concerns with the counsellors. It also provides outreach programs such as family and academic counselling. R Archana, counsellor and psychology lecturer at JNC said, “I have seen in my experience that most students suffer from a negative self-image. This to an extent can be attributed to the increase in the exposure and dependence on internet and technology. Students have conflicting ideas and their lack of self-esteem affects their decisions. Thus our role as counsellors is to help the students regulate their emotions and offer guidance.”

St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science

In St Joseph’s College, the four professors from the Department of Psychology also work as counsellors. Students and parents are informed about counselling services through sessions dedicated to counselling. Activities to instil awareness among the students is also conducted throughout the year. “Each class has a mentor to whom students can approach if they have any academic issues or even bullying. And if the mentors feel that professional help is required, the student is referred to the counsellor. Students can even directly come to us,” said Subhiksha, counsellor and psychology professor at St Joseph’s College.

Christ University

At Christ University, there is a MACS team (mentoring and counselling services) that conducts sessions in every class at the beginning of an academic year. Tarangini Jayram, who is studying MSc in Psychology at Christ University said, “The MACS team is like a support system that brings Christ [University’s] values to the students and also informs them about the counselling services that are available. PG students of psychology can join MACS as mentors.”

Mount Carmel College

The college (MCC) has a separate counselling department with two counsellors and a few interns. “The counsellors introduce themselves to every new batch”, said Arathi Bansy, a counsellor at MCC.

Jain University

At Jain College, a counselling sensitization programme called ‘Have Vishwas’ is conducted for each class. “The counselling team addresses the mental health issues faced by the students and informs them about the services provided by the counsellors,” said Uma Warrier, chief counsellor of Jain University.

Counselling facilities are available for free in colleges to help those in need. Most counsellors are available during college working hours and students can visit them at times suitable to them. Some counsellors also share their phone numbers with students so that they can consult them outside college timings.

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