You get accepted into medical school, it’s a time of celebration but then not everything is sunshine and rainbows. Obviously, it’s far tougher than you expected. Waking up early each morning to study, then studying for hours on end with lack of proper food and rest, attending classes, rounds, getting berated by professors, seniors and staffs alike just because they do not consider you one of them or rather they do not consider you human at all. But who can blame them, they were most probably treated the same way when they were students and now they’re simply just passing down the torch. And then getting chewed out during exams, elated or disappointed by the results; maybe you’ll pass, maybe you’ll fail and have to retake the exams. And all this while there is pressure from the family, friends, neighbors, society; “Haven’t you passed out yet? What’s taking you so long?”
Now think about it. All this pressure to achieve the very best regardless of all you give, it’s bound to leave some scars in the human mind. You give and give till there is nothing more to give, and still they want to leech out more from you, squeeze you until all the air has been removed from your lungs, destroy you until nothing else remains, and thus you maybe be forced to think at one time or the other, ‘Did I really choose the right career? And constantly asking if all of this is worth it in the end?’
This is a typical scenario, seen in so many medical colleges, of students who suffer so much and yet have no one to turn to and thus remain the silent victims of this torture, silently crying out and yet have no one to help them. This also happens to be the very reason why depression, anxiety, and stress is so common in those studying in the medical field. The fact that there is severe awareness of mental illness in our present-day society along with medical illness being considered a taboo subject just makes it far worse. Medical students, regardless of which genre they belong to, are subjected to anxiety, depression, and stress some time or the other during their study course. Amongst them depression is the worst, gnawing them away from the inside, making things far worse than they already are and ultimately leading to suicides.
Depression, in all its clinical terminology, is a mood disorder causing a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest and interfering with one’s daily functioning. It’s not a pretty sight and definitely not like how the poets romanticize it. There are emotions of anxiety, guilt, anger, mood swings, irritation, self-criticism, indecisiveness, confusion, lack of energy, feeling like a failure, over or under sleeping, the overall feeling of neglect and thoughts of suicide. There are multiple reports, of medical students committing suicide, doing drugs, behaving erratically, and almost all of it is due to depression itself.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), it was recorded that the average age suicide is 24 years old applicants in medical school. One of the most important factors is that people may not show any outer signs of depression at all until it’s too late. People have often never suspected a person to have depression at all until they end up taking their lives. It is a serious problem on the rise, with more complicated medical curriculums, and extreme competitions that go with them.
Source: iMedPub Journals
So what can be done to counter this problem? Medical treatment is one thing, but finding the disease itself is difficult. Most of the time, students are too terrified to come out with their problems because of fear of “what everyone else will say”. So firstly in the medical school level itself, there should be proper counseling methods implored to check up on the mental health of both the doctors, the medical students as well as rest of the medical staff. Awareness programs, talk groups and heart to heart talks can help too. Medical assistance is the most important thing along with counseling. There should be regulation of the environment where everyone can talk their thoughts out loud, instead of bubbling it up completely.
Most importantly, if you have features of depression, please do not forget that you are not alone. There are many of us in the same boat as you, and we will gladly hear you out. It may not cure the disease completely, but your pain may decrease a little after being shared. To those who are in the vicinity of the people who have depression, do not tell them to smile and be happy, depression doesn’t work that way. Instead, lend a quiet ear, listen to what they have to say, they may not speak at once, but just showing them that you are there can help ease their struggles. And please, never forget, to always seek professional help. It may not seem like much, but it’ll help out in the long run. Perhaps someday we can exist in a world where depression is no longer a condition that takes our loved ones from us. But until then, let’s all do what we can to help ease it.
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In the end, it leads us to think, those who are meant to heal others, firstly need healing themselves. After all, how can we expect to cure others if we are not whole ourselves? It takes me back to a quote;
“We have learned to worship doctors as gods, fully trusting them with our bodies and souls and offering our worldly goods. And yet paradoxically, there are no other human beings that can be counted as the most vulnerable as the doctors. Their suicide rate is eight times the national average at any given time. Their percentage of drug addiction is one hundred times higher than normal. And because they are painfully aware that they cannot live up to our expectations, their anguish is unbearably intense. And thus, they have aptly been named ‘wounded healers.”
Always remember to seek help. It doesn’t mean that you’re weak or incompetent. It just means you’re human. Like every one of us. And if possible, one human may help in healing the other and just maybe, the sun will shine a little brighter on all of us.
Dr. RIKITA SHAKYA