By Fady Akladios
You’ve already learned about depression in med school. I am quite sure you can tell me what SIGECAPS stands for, and you should be able to name all the major comorbidities of major depressive disorder. You have probably also spent hours on end going through your favorite behavioral sciences resources reading about this disease. You may even have had a couple of symptoms strangely similar to what you were reading at one point.
Let’s face it. Medical school is tough. Major sources of stress follow us like our own shadows. With our exhausting studying schedules, increasing tuition debt, the constant need to excel, competition with other students, and the race to secure that residency spot, it is no wonder that depressed mood and outright mood disorders thrive in our educational environment.
There have been many studies done over the past two decades on the prevalence of depression in our classrooms. Some studies showed the prevalence of depression in med students is similar to comparable populations, and some showed a higher prevalence. Some showed an increasing prevalence of these disorders as students progressed in their education, which might indicate a significant difficulty faced by students transitioning into a competitive and sometimes hostile workplace. Whatever the truth might be, it seems that depression, mood disorders, and even suicide are veritable problems for us.
Some medical schools are already trying to tackle this problem. An effort was made by Duke University to create an anonymous space for students to vent. A psychiatrist monitored the posts to detect if any of the students required counseling or treatment. More and more medical schools try to openly advertise counseling services to help struggling medical students on their journey.
In my opinion, I think it would be easier for us to go through with our four years of education if our schools would try to raise awareness of the important issues generally faced by students as we enter the institution. That way, we will expect problems and be better prepared for them. Another important point is that students should be well notified of counseling and psychiatric services.
As medical students, we also need to look out for our colleagues. If you see a fellow student struggling, offer a hand. If they confide in you their terrible moods lately, encourage them to seek counselling. If you notice their performance is impaired or if they are becoming a risk to themselves, notify a supervisor as soon as possible. It is important to remember that depression can not only affect a student’s performance, but can affect patients’ lives too.
Finally, if you are getting a little down from all the stress, then find something fun to do and relax a little! It also helps to remember why you got into this field in the first place. We are (and will be) helping people on daily basis. Your interaction with them can affect their lives in many great ways. At the end of the day, we are all working for that precious three-word phrase: “thank you doctor.” As simple as it sounds, these words will make you forget about all the hardships and trouble you went through make it all worthwhile.