Alarming Surge in Indian Student Deaths in Canada: Mental Health & Employment Woes

Rozana Spokesman  | Amanat Thaper

Punjabi Diaspora

A Disturbing Trend Emerges as 5-Fold Increase in Deaths Over 6 Years Raises Concerns


TORONTO: The Dreams of Young Indians pursuing education in Canada are turning into nightmares, with many grappling with mental health issues like depression stemming from joblessness and dashed expectations. A troubling statistical trend reveals a five-fold increase in untimely deaths among Indian students in the country over the past six years.

In 2018, eight Indian students tragically lost their lives, a figure that has risen exponentially to 33 deaths in 2022. Disturbingly, 2023 has already witnessed 36 Indian student deaths, with funeral homes reporting that four to five Indians are passing away every month this year.

A Survey conducted by Khalsa Aid on international students in Canada revealed that three out of every ten Indian students were grappling with depression. The situation is exacerbated by families in India investing their life savings to send their children to Canada in pursuit of better opportunities.

One such poignant case is that of Arshdeep Verma from Patiala, Punjab, who arrived in Canada to study at Cambrian College, Ontario, in 2019, after his family invested Rs 30 lakh. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted Arshdeep's ability to earn a livelihood, and unable to seek financial support from his family, he spiraled into depression, tragically ending his life in April 2022.

An Anonymous nurse at Toronto's Birchmount Mental Hospital has observed a rising trend of Indian students battling mental health issues. She stated, "I have been here for eight years. The number of youth arrivals has suddenly doubled in the last two years, with most suffering from depression." Disturbingly, appeals for information about missing students are increasingly appearing on social media.

Daljinder Khatra, a 22-year-old who arrived in Ontario from Punjab in January 2023, expressed deep regret, stating, "I wish I had not come to Canada." His parents sold their land to pay a Rs 15 lakh fee, but academic struggles forced him to pay an additional Rs 3.65 lakh to retake exams. The stress has robbed him of joy and peace.

Dr. MA Gupta, a Toronto psychiatrist, identified the lack of access to mental health services as a significant hurdle for Indian students. Most mental health counselors in Canada are from a different cultural background, leading to communication barriers with Indian students who may not speak English fluently or share the same cultural context.

Significantly, In response, there is a growing call for Canadian colleges and universities to appoint mental health counselors of Indian origin to bridge this cultural gap. Jaspreet Singh of the International Sikh Students Association noted that most students arriving in Canada are 19 or 20 years old, struggling to cope with the pressures they face. The primary factors contributing to suicides are the denial of work permits or visa extensions for students.

It's essential to highlight that approximately 2.5 lakh Indian students travel to Canada each year for educational purposes, a number that continues to rise annually, reflecting the growing appeal of Canadian institutions for international students.