The exultation over Kerala’s strong performance in the CBSE examinations has been tempered by the revelation that 66 school-age children have committed suicide since the lockdown (March 25). On July 9, CM Pinarayi Vijayan released the startling statistics compiled by the State Crime Records Bureau. While not explicitly attributing the deaths—mostly in the 12-18 age bracket—to the lockdown, he suggested that it might have exacerbated underlying problems such as household discord, parental pressure and substance abuse. He has instituted a fact-finding committee.
Over the following week, initiatives to address the mental wellbeing of children have been rolled out. ‘Chiri’ (Smile), the CM’s tele-counselling initiative, however, has divided experts. The women and child development department has also launched a phone-counselling programme and roped in anganwadi and ASHA workers. The Kerala police have brought out many awareness and intervention campaigns as well.