Kota struggles with shortage of psychologists as student suicides rise

Despite a distressing increase in the number of suicides among students, the city of Kota in Rajasthan, is grappling with a severe shortage of clinical psychologists. This shortage poses a significant challenge in addressing the mental health issues faced by approximately 250,000 coaching students who are preparing for entrance exams while living away from home.

A psychological counseling centre was established in September of this year within the New Medical College Hospital (NMCH) in Kota, in line with the state government’s budget allocation. However, the center currently lacks the presence of any clinical psychologists. While one clinical psychologist has been appointed at NMCH, the demand for at least five professionals remains unmet, and there is also a shortage of adequately trained staff.

The scarcity of M Phil programs in clinical psychology within the state’s medical colleges has further exacerbated the issue. The few individuals serving in government medical colleges in Rajasthan hold degrees from other states and fall short of meeting the demand.

Dr. Vinod Kumar Daria, a professor in the Department of Psychology at NMCH, shared that he had submitted a proposal for an M Phil course in clinical psychology to the state government in January of last year. The proposal was approved, leading to the announcement of the Psychological Counseling Center, which was intended to be staffed with skilled clinical psychologists. However, the commencement of the M Phil course and the appointment of clinical psychologists have yet to materialise.

Dr. Daria emphasized the pressing need for clinical psychologists in the state, given the influx of students from across the country, particularly in Kota, Sikar, and Jaipur. He noted that the number of mental health-related patients seeking treatment in government medical colleges is sufficient to support the establishment of an eight-seat M Phil course in clinical psychology.

Dr. B. S. Shekhawat, the Head of the Department of Psychology and Additional Principal at the Government Medical College in Kota, acknowledged the acute shortage of clinical psychologists and expert counselors. Dr. Shekhawat revealed that he had requested the appointment of clinical psychologists and counselors; however, no appointments have been made thus far.

While there are reportedly three to four clinical psychologists in the private sector, including a couple working for prominent coaching institutions, the number remains insufficient to meet the growing demand.

Dr. Harish Sharma, the principal psychologist at one of the coaching giants in Kota, shared that his team of 96 counselors, supported by two clinical psychologists, is providing psychological counseling and treatment to students at various centers across the city.

The Principal Secretary of Medical Education, T Ravikant, did not respond to requests for comment regarding the status of the proposal for the M Phil course and the requirement for clinical psychologists in the state.

The shortage of clinical psychologists in Kota is a matter of grave concern, particularly as the number of student suicides rises. Efforts to address this issue must be prioritized to ensure the mental well-being of the coaching students and offer them the support they desperately need.

(With inputs from PTI)