They learn all about diseases and emergencies and how the body works. They study all night and sit in classes all day and then they do shifts in hospitals. The stress begins to build and then one day, they learn in class how carbon monoxide kills. How it creeps into the body and slowly suffocates each of the body's vital organs. And then, according to statistics, at least 11% of 2200 medical students in a recent survey, contemplate suicide themselves.
Everyone knows what a pressure cooker medical school can be, and according to some surveys, these young people start medical school with the same health profiles as people in other vocations and training programs. That means some of them are prone to anxiety issues, depression, OCD and other mental health issues. And that recent survey (published in the September 2nd issue of The Annals of Internal Medicine) also exposed the fact that 50% of the medical students felt serious burnout and felt they might not be able to endure the "crucible of training."
The medical burnout they felt was expressed as - depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, low personal accomplishments and suicide. It should be noted that 400 working physicians commit suicide yearly, and the beginnings of some of those proclivities may start before medical school, then get compounded during the brutal program and residency training and finally come to fruition in their professional lives.
Medical schools do offer counseling but most students fail to take advantage of the offer. The lesson to be learned is that we need to look for signs of stress/anxiety/depression and spot them in our family members, friends, co-workers and realize that there is an opportunity to intervene gently so that a serious event is avoided or prevented. Doctors say you cannot thwart every suicide attempt but often times we can help people avoid that extreme stage if we just pay more attention and if we care.
Published On: October 25, 2008