The objective of the “Live Positive” initiative, launched by Dainik Bhaskar in 2017, was to develop positive attitudes among competitive coaching students in Kota, thereby reducing their stress.
The city of Kota in Rajasthan, India, is acknowledged as the nucleus of competitive coaching institutes, which help get students into the country’s elite engineering and medical colleges, typically IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) and AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Science).
More than 150,000 students from different parts of India flock to Kota’s coaching institutes every year to prepare for engineering and medical entrance exams. An atmosphere of fierce competition, unrealistic parental expectations, and hectic study schedules makes their lives stressful.
This stress has led more than 94 students to commit suicide in Kota in last five years.
Ever increasing competition and familial expectations create a cauldron of mental exhaustion. Indian Institute of Technology’s acceptance rate is less than 2%, and the hyper competitive nature of the entrance exams adds to the stress quotient. The overall perception among parents is that getting a good engineering or medical college seat will make one’s future bright and secure — and this pressure can also add to students’ stress.
Furthermore, many students are living away from home at a young age (students as young as 12 years come to Kota), while they struggle with these critical issues. In absence of adequate support systems and coping mechanisms, students become vulnerable — and some of them resort to suicide.
The Live Positive campaign was designed to increase awareness of the mental health struggles these students may face, as well as to encourage them to reach out for support. The campaign included the following elements:
- A 24-hour dedicated help line number for students, in partnership with Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). This helpline catered to student’s psychological and stress-related queries. Over the past year, the helpline has responded to 612 calls.
- An eight-page special tabloid distributed to 94,000 students. The content included: expert tips for students to reduce stress, interviews and columns from renowned psychologists and academics, motivational write-ups and interviews about students who overcame depression, and encouraging stories of legends who overcame depression, such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
- Dainik Bhaskar published 69 editorial articles to boost awareness among parents, teachers, and students about time and stress management, teaching tactics, essential studying habits, and career options.
- We identified 1,365 local business owners (from hostels, groceries, mobile shops, restaurants, and a variety of other shops) to serve as trained “student buddies.” They were trained in one-day workshops conducted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences to act as counselors and friends for the students in stress.
- We organised 71 seminars to sensitise and deliberate with students on topics of life skills, stress-free living, and healthy eating.
- A wide variety of events to spread the message of living a positive life or to promote relaxation, including 57 street plays, 77 yoga workshops, and nine rock concers.
- Motivating posters placed in coaching institutes, malls, etc. Radio spots, outdoor media, and audio slides in theatre further amplified the campaign.
The most powerful result of the Live Positive campaign is that it provided help to prevent eight potential student suicides (source: TISS database). This small yet impactful initiative has successfully brought back many smiles and increased confidence for many students in Kota.