According to a recent study, 1 in 10 medical students experience suicidal thoughts. 1 in 10. Just let that sink in. 30% of medical students report to having depressive/anxious thoughts, with 15% actively seeking treatment.
Suicide death rates are among the highest in India with the most affected group being university students. There is even a blockbuster Bollywood film that touches on the topic*. The trend of medical students and doctors committing suicide is going up in an alarming rate in India. Even with these worrying facts, there is an unfortunate pressure placed on young people in India to pursue a career in medicine.
Why is mental health a problem among medical students?
Even though mental health among medical students is a topic that is starting to surface, there is still a lot of taboo around the topic. Medical training can be stressful. The content itself is not difficult, but the sheer workload is difficult to comprehend at the age of 18. Medical students were typically at the top of their class throughout high school. To go from this to being average or near the bottom of your cohort when you start medical school can itself be disheartening. The long work hours mixed with the weight that is placed on exams can also be a source of stress.
Despite all of this, students are wary of self-reporting any problems they have. Possibly due to the fear of appearing weak among your peers or the fear of casting doubt on the higher powers regarding your ability to become a doctor.
Mental health was thankfully never a problem for me. My faith played a big role in keeping me sane because it helped me see the bigger picture in life. However, that is not to say that I had doubts. As I progressed through medical school, there were times where the sparkle in my eye when I talked about medicine was hard to be seen. A lot of that was to do with the unfortunate state that the NHS was going in. Taking a year out of medicine to study a topic of interest has honestly been the best decision I have ever made since starting medical school. Not only has it ignited the passion in me, but it made me miss medicine! Walking through the hospital whilst doing my research project has made me look forward to talking to patients and enhancing my clinical skills. It was a feeling that I was desperately in need of after finals…
Remember guys, no matter what happens in your life…*all is well* – The movie is called ‘3 Idiots’ if anyone wants to watch it!
Rotenstein LS, Ramos MA, Torre M, et al. Prevalence of depression, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation among medical students. 2016