Mental Health A Priority In Medical Schools

The harmful effects of medical education on student well-being are concerning with higher rates of burnout, depression, and even suicide.

About one in three medical students report symptoms of depression, and one in nine experiences suicidal ideation, according to the American Medical Association.

Medical students encounter barriers to seeking help, including lack of knowledge and negative attitudes towards mental disorders and treatment, the fear of being stigmatized and poor access to appropriate care.

Medical schools are working to understand these effects and are implementing strategies and programs to improve the mental health of their students.

Saint Louis University School of Medicine (SLU) has begun promoting student interests related to medicine through learning communities focused on as service, advocacy, research, global health, wellness, and medical education through non­graded elective coursework. Dr. Stuart Slavin, dean of student affairs at SLU, believes that these student groups may increase the chance for students to form meaningful relationships, which can sometimes get overshadowed in a competitive academic atmosphere.

The University of Minnesota created the Behavioral Consultation Team (BCT) which is a team of staff from several departments across the University with administrative, psychological, academic and legal expertise. The team operates within FERPA/HIPAA requirements. Its goal is to provide a coordinated response to situations arising from students who may represent a threat of harm to themselves or others.

Northwestern is teaching its medical students the principles and practice of self-care by turning the students themselves into the test subjects. In the project, second-year medical students choose a personal health behavior to change, set a goal, track progress and assess success. After completing the project, 4 out of 5 students considered themselves to be healthier, and perhaps more importantly, they saw firsthand the obstacles of changing health behavior.

Michigan Medicine introduced TRAILS (Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students), a program committed to making effective mental health services accessible in all schools. By training existing school staff in evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, TRAILS is reducing barriers to youth mental health care throughout the state of Michigan and in a number of other settings nationwide.

The Yale School of Medicine announced the launch of the pilot Student Mental Health and Wellness Program to provide short-term individual therapy and counseling for its students.

The program provides more immediate access to mental health care for students with mild-to-moderate symptoms or acute adjustment issues, by having a social worker and a psychologist embedded in the school,” said Associate Dean of Student Affairs Nancy Angoff and Deputy Dean for Education Jessica Illuzzi to Yale Daily News.

Mental Health initiatives and programs in medical schools have been advancing over recent years and are continuing to grow.

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