India witnesses approximately 1 student suicide every hour accounting for approximately 8000 suicides an year. With one of the highest student suicide rates in the world, 67% of this suicide population are students of class 11th ,12th and droppers preparing for one of the India’s toughest exams -JEE AND NEET.
With 13 lakh students contesting for 50,000 government seats in NEET and 11.5 lakh students contesting for 11,279 seats in JEE Advanced, the competition is immense.Kota a small city in Rajasthan sees a huge footfall of about 1,50,000 aspirants every year and hence not only famous as “JEE and NEET factory” but also as “The suicide city”.
Psychiatric experts studying the behavior patterns of these students all over India have cited the intense curriculum, parental and peer pressure ,depression,anxiety as the main reasons for the high levels of stress among the students. Though some have continuous support from their families and friends, but there are others for whom it becomes difficult to explain their conditions to their confidants.
In fact,It is limited to not just India but is actually a global problem.Suicidal behavior is a major health concern in many countries,developed and developing alike. At least a million people are estimated to die annually from suicide worldwide. Many more people, especially the young and middle-aged, attempt suicide.According to the World Health Organization, every 60 minutes, a student commits suicide somewhere in the world.
The need of the hour is to not only provide easy access to counseling services but to detect the need of one at an early stage.
Mayank, a student of class 12th from Delhi is aspiring to become a doctor and has recently joined a famous coaching by paying hefty fee. He used to be school sports captain but has to discontinue as he doesn't have any time to play these days to maintain his performance in the A1 batch of Coaching he recently got promoted to. He is finding difficulty in coping and managing school and coaching studies simultaneously. He doesn’t score well in school as he hardly goes to attend school. He studies all day and gained a lot of weight. He also started getting back ache sometimes. He rarely goes out and hence has lost contact with almost all his friends. He studies till late in the night and also has to get up early to catch with coaching assignments. His parents are very happy for having put him in that coaching and seeing him study so hard and worry about his likely rank in the competition. Suddenly, he finds it difficult to concentrate and score well in Coaching but he is hesitant to discuss with anyone. In short he has nobody to talk to and explain his problems and help him manage his school and coaching together and and offer him the right counseling.
DOST app is meant for 3 different categories of people. Firstly the youth - students of class 11th, 12th and droppers (nearly 2 million students appear for JEE and NEET every year) who are rigorously and perseventaly preparing for their board exams and one of India’s toughest exams -JEE and NEET. This is a crucial period in every student’s life. There is a huge amount of parental / social /peer pressure on youth of this group to perform well in exams and also secure a seat in one of IITs or Medical College. In this process, many don’t realize that this stress may become insurmountable and silently push the student towards the state of depression, which eventually if accumulates over time may even lead to suicidal thoughts. The others who do know they need help, don’t have enough time and resources to approach someone and seek help. Even today talking about mental health is a taboo in India and parents even resist in seeking help for their child.
DOST app is targeting at resolving such problems of this section of youth. It would have the following features :-
- DOST emotional system-AI based early detection system for stress / depression
- Expert advice on Stress management / depression
- DOST Study Management-Platform for academic support and virtual campus tours / chat forums
The 2nd category of people using this app would be counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. According to the user’s emotional level detected through AI chatbot, we would get him connected to the suitable expert. This app would enable the experts (which are in scarcity for this field) a platform to provide counseling online, reaching more in less time and to provide their services at flexible hours.
The 3rd category of people on board are academic experts and seniors in colleges for academic support.The experts and seniors(peer dost forum) would offer academic support through a chat forum or app to app calling, recommend books and give sneak peeks about the user’s dream college. This would guide the student step by step and would be a pillar of constant support to guide them through this herculean journey.
“DOST”, is an artificially intelligent android app.It has a 2 components-DOST Emotional Support(DES) and DOST Study Management(DSM) and both of which would be a three tier system.
The DES would consist of the AI chatbot,Peer Dost Forum and Counseling Services and the DSM -TimeTable Manager,Book Recommendation and Group Chat Forum.Hence a complete 24x7 support to the aspirants.
According to experts, when students are stressed they require someone to share their feelings with and provide them with right guidance.The AI chatbot would do the needful.From the humongous data collected from surveys and various online portals, the chatbot would be trained and would firstly detect the anxiety and emotional level of the user ,If it comes out to be very high then human intervention would be done and specialized counselor on board would provide help.Else, the chat bot would keep on listening and through Deep Learning and Natural Language Processing detect the context and give non-medical suggestions that the user can do easily.
The second feature-”The Peer Dost Forum” is a forum where immediate seniors(students currently studying medical or engineering) from all across India mentor these aspirants.It would be a platform for junior/senior interaction where the student can seek academic help and know more about their dream college.The third feature would be a Timetable Manager.According to a survey conducted by my team it came out that around 50% of the aspirants are not able to make their own timetable and so here DOST comes into play.DOST provides inbuilt templates and is customizable according to one’s needs.There would also be an AI based Book Recommendation System and Group Chat Forum where students can get expert advice and help from mentors in this field and recommend books to study.