Medical students make it their priority to study the health of others but often neglect their own. This has led to a high rate of suicides in medical students. A recent meta-analysis showed that one-third of medical students worldwide, battle with depression. Medical students can become easily depressed due to their overwhelming workload, sleep deprivation, financial woes and fear of failing. These pressures lead to anxiety, substance abuse and then suicidal thoughts.

In May 2018, a female medical student committed suicide weeks before receiving her medical degree. Another student also committed suicide in April of the same year because he failed an exam eleven times in the last five years. A colleague of the student had this to say, “I am not willing to pass this off as suicide. This is murder. A student passed all the subjects in his MBBS curriculum but failed in one subject 11 times in five years – this is simply not possible. The institution and his teachers should take responsibility for this. Is it only up to the student to pass or should the institution be held responsible as well?”. It is a well-known fact that the journey to becoming a health care provider is a long and tedious one but is it doing more harm than good?

Here are some of the symptoms of depression:

· Withdrawal
· Fatigue
· Loss of interest
· Preoccupied with death
· Constant crying
· Agitation
· Increased risky behaviours

There are no absolute solutions but there are changes that can be made to lessen the number of suicides among medical students. The University of Michigan Medical School has implemented peer-to-peer mental support groups and each student is assigned a counsellor that they can contact at any time. St. Louis University School of Medicine has reduced class hours, established a pass or fail grading system and a blog called Mindfulness. The blog has tips about obtaining and maintaining mental health.

Lead researcher of JAMA paper has also suggested three approaches to prevent suicides during medical school. He lists being:
Re-active – having counsellors available if needed.
Proactive – having events to promote wellbeing.
Systemic – attempting to change the prevailing culture.

It is time that other medical institutions, including hospitals, research and apply some of these preventative measures to aid their students and staff with their medical health. Having a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body.

Crisis Hotlines in Barbados:
BPW Crisis Centre (24hr hotline) 435-8222, 836-5071, 836-5070
bpwcrisiscentre@gmail.com

The Samaritans – 429-9999

Sources:

Medical students and suicide | Student BMJ