An article from the AMA discussing the best means of helping medical students to deal with mental health issues that may arise as a result of studying medicine during a pandemic, and also generally.
The ongoing pandemic is putting a spotlight on mental health as depression and anxiety continues to affect millions of Americans. But even before COVID-19, concern about the well-being of medical students was on the rise. About one in three medical students report symptoms of depression, and one in nine experiences suicidal ideation.
The University of New Mexico School of Medicine (UNM) recognized the need for some sort of intervention and developed a multilevel approach to help destigmatize mental illness among health care workers and raise awareness about support opportunities. UNM wanted to make it normal for medical students to talk about mental health and make it culturally acceptable to ask for help.
To make that happen, UNM had to start the conversation early. Before the school’s formal white coat ceremony, the assistant dean for professional well-being would spend almost an hour talking about mental health with the family members of UNM’s incoming students.
During that conversation, family members would receive a booklet about supporting their loved one during medical school. The booklet shares important things to know about medical school—ranging from the expected time commitment to the fact that it will likely be an emotional roller coaster—as well as tips for communicating with medical students and suggestions for spouses, partners, or significant others. There is a page on random acts of kindness and support, and two pages breaking down the “alphabet soup” that is the language of medical training and medicine.