07/03/2016

Medical student mental health: are our medical schools failing us? 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Surrounded by a culture of excellence and competition, assuming the responsibilities of qualified medical professionals and juggling the escalating financial burden of university living, it is no surprise that medical students might often end up feeling blue.

A 2015 Student BMJ survey found that of 1122 UK medical students, 30% reported mental illness, of which 48% reported suicidal thoughts.

Does this come as much of a surprise? I distinctly remember my first day of medical school, in particular the words Fitness to Practice. The ball and chain of professional accountability is shackled to medical students from the outset of a lifetime career in healthcare. A line must be drawn. It seems abhorrent to fear-monger such young minds into adhering to the responsibilities of qualified medical professions, without the proper implementation of compulsory psychological support. 

I have a personal tutor. I have a CPP tutor. I have RUMS. But who can offer me professional psychological support when I really need it? Never mind, I’d better solider on - otherwise I’ll start pricking the ears of the GMC. 

This pervasive approach to discipline has lead to a withdrawal of both students and professionals, who would rather their psychological illness remain undetected in the name of avoiding the dreaded Fitness to Practice. 

In the past month alone, a Liberal Democrat NHS inquiry has unveiled that rates of  ‘serious incidents’ due to mental illness have increased by a third over the past two years, which former Health Secretary Norman Lamb describes as “amounting to discrimination”.

Further to this discrimination is the stigma attached to mental illness and the hesitance to confront such a taboo subject, particularly within medical school; an environment that engenders the very resilience and perfectionism that we all claimed when writing our personal statements. Alas, are we failing our medical schools, or are our medical schools failing us?

​Joe Hearle, Online Editor, MBBS Year 2