Last week, on September 24, the Civil Services Exam (CSE) results for the year 2020 came ringing in. According to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC),  761 candidates made the cut in the exam, held to fill 836 positions in Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Police Services (IPS), and other central services including the Indian Revenue Service (IRS).

The official statistics indicate that out of the 4,82,770 candidates who appeared for the CSE 2020, a total of 10,564 candidates qualified for the main exam in January 2021, and only 2,046 candidates got shortlisted for the interview. For those who could not make it, a prolonged anxiety and depression follows.

Students take a university entrance examination at a lecture hall (Representational image)Reuters

As soon as the results were out, the social media went abuzz with congratulatory messages from friends, relatives, and kins; but amongst the many tweets and instagram posts, there was also an important piece of advice for those who didn't cut a rank of their dreams.

IRS officer and NITI Aayog Director Shubhrata Prakash who appeared for CSE exams twice in 2000 and later in 2001 shared how anxiety and depression affected her mental health in spite of a decent ranking.

Shubhrata Prakash, who is also an IT Commissioner, authored a book on depression in 2016. In her post, she also mentioned that IAS was her first choice followed by IRS but during her time, the IAS cut-off closed at 36 and the total intake was just 300. 

Her post was well-received and opened up an avenue for other aspirants to share their experience and a strong message that there is more to life than exams, ranks and certificates. 

Shubhrata Prakash with her book on overcoming depression
Shubhrata Prakash with her book on overcoming depressionTwitter

Aditya Dicky Singh, a former civil servant who later found his calling in wildlife photography and conservation wrote, "In 1993, I secured a rank of 486 and then decided that since we have only one life I don't want a successful career in the traditional sense and that transformed my life as a wildlife photographer. Life is what you make out of it. It's never a rank or a certificate."

Depression amongst students appearing for competitive exams

According to a recent report by The New Indian Express on NEET exams creating anxiety amongst students, "Many students suffer predominantly due to parental pressure and misconceptions about studying medicine. At least 15 percent of students we contacted said medicine is their life." The news report quoted Dr V Venkatesh Madan Kumar, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk, who works with a local helpline for counselling the students.

"Making the students understand that 'medicine is not life' is important. Depression can be overcome if someone is there to listen to the depressed. Even a few minutes of listening calmly can make them come out of depression and that is what we are doing at 104," he furthered.

Earlier in July, an MPSC aspirant who was uncertain about making it through the exam due to age cut off, took his life being severely depressed. Swapnil Lonkar, a civil engineering diploma holder from Pune, had cleared the 2019 Maharashtra Public Service Commission preliminary and main exams and was waiting for the final interview to take place.

According to reports, a suicide note found near the body claimed that a sense of negativity was creeping in as the interview was not being held and he was in danger of missing the age cut. He also stated he was depressed and that his family had a lot of expectations from him.