Mental Health and Med School

Be under no illusion, regardless of whether you are doing a 4 year graduate entry medical course or a 5/6 year undergraduate course, there will be times you will struggle.

Mental health issues in the general population are common, 1 in 6 people will have an episode of depression in their lives. In the medical school setting, the incidence of mental health issues in medical students increases 2-5 fold (Rotenstein et al., 2016) and with it the thought of suicidal ideation.

I, personally, have suffered with chronic severe depression for 7 years. At first it was thought it was just a ‘teenage hypersensitivity’ to the world. As time went on, nothing in my environment changed and depression took a hold of my life and well-being. There have been tough times and there have been straight up thoughts of ending it all. This is not meant to be a sob story. The statistics say it all, I am not alone, you are not alone.

My situation at home has never been great on a psychological scale. It’s left scars which have taken years to even start to heal.

In 2014, enough was enough. If it wasn’t for a very close friend (thank you) it might have ended very different. I got help, antidepressants (ADs), counselling, CBT. It got better, not happy, just content. A weight had been lifted and life could continue. I remained with counselling and ADs (many different ones until one worked) until graduation.

Now I find myself somewhere new. New people, new location, new house, and while change is great, when you have help set up in one place having to start it all over again is tough. 1 month after starting med school I was back on ADs, even now, 5 months later, I’m still struggling. All the structure is gone and I’m having to start again. Doctors talk about burnout, in medical school, some will burnout once a year, others once every few months, some every month and some every week. It’s February 2017, and my burnout count is sitting nicely at 4.

Life as a med student is tough at the best of times. When there’s barely enough time eat, you can see why it can get so difficult to get help, but please do! It’s nothing to be a shamed of, and will make you a better doctor, friend, husband, wife and person in the long run. Because believe me, there is a long run.

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