Sarah Tulk is a family physician in Hamilton, Ontario
Despite earnestly advocating for physician mental health, my own story has remained cloaked in secrecy. As a medical student, I felt far too junior to risk such a revelation. I watched as stigma, perpetuated by the hidden curriculum, kept my peers from seeking mental health care. Still, I kept my head tucked safely in the sand, and swore to break my silence in residency. However, as a resident the fear of jeopardizing job prospects maintained my mutism. I vowed to speak up when I was staff. Unfortunately, early in my staff career my advocacy efforts were smothered by fierce judgment and harsh consequences. I wholeheartedly renewed my vows with the ostrich approach and reconciled to start talking about mental health when I was protected by more seniority. I hated the secrecy and hypocrisy, but at least I was safe. Then I heard of another resident suicide. Then a medical student. Another resident. A staff physician. ...continue reading →
Rashi Hiranandani is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Ottawa
Medical school is a stressful time in students’ lives. There are emotional, physical, and mental stressors; particular daunting is the stress of being in new clinical environments on a weekly or even daily basis and having patients’ lives in our hands. Medical students are sleep deprived and over-worked. We have the stress of not matching to the residency of our choice or even not matching to a residency program at all. Medical students also experience significant burnout and compassion fatigue, with burnout rates ranging from 27 to 75% . It thus comes as no surprise that medical students suffer from rates of mental illness higher than the general population. This is not ideal for the health of the medical students, nor is it optimal for the health of the patients they care for.
A 2016 systematic review published in JAMA reported that, on average, 27.2% of medical students deal with depression or depressive symptoms . Among students who suffer from depression, only 16% receive help . ...continue reading →
Hilary Drake is a medical student in the Class of 2021 at the University of British Columbia
On my first day in a new family practice, my preceptor asked me to take a history from a patient who had listed their “reason for visit” as a sore throat. I stood in the hallway and made a mental checklist of questions to ask and observations to make. Have they had any sick contacts? Does their voice sound hoarse?
When I opened the door and asked them if they could tell me what brought them in today, they responded as expected: “My throat is sore.” When I asked what they thought might be causing the pain, they unwrapped a scarf from their neck and stated, “I think it’s because the noose didn’t work.” At that point they started crying.
They had tried to come in before. They had recognized their pain and wanted to reach out for help, but they were unable to out of fear that their physician would not believe the pain if they could not see it.
Hissan Butt is a medical student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario
I recently learned that two Canadian medical students died in the past three weeks. Little is known about the circumstances surrounding these deaths.
However, this has not stopped worried Canadian medical students from speculating about the causes of death. The speculation arises not because of a desire to gossip. Rather, I think, it stems partly from a lack of information and partly because of fear. At the time of writing, most believe that the students died by suicide. One university has acknowledged the death of one of the students, although the cause is not identified.
The silence is justified - we are told through unofficial sources – by a request from the families to respect their right to privacy. We are also told that talk might spark copying. Indeed, any decent person should want to respect the wishes of the bereaved families, to help them grieve and lighten their burden in this difficult time. There is no need for naming, but there is a need to talk. ...continue reading →
University of British Columbia
Class of 2017
This spoken word was written after the death of a friend as a reflective means to express the feelings and questions one might have coming from a medical background and frame of mind. In particular, the poem explores how medicine, religion, and poetry itself may be part of one’s search for closure, but also how closure may not always be found.
Medical School is where i learned that:
The Key To Self-Care As A Professional Physician Is In Practicing The Art Of Self-Reflection.
but in my sleeplessness i’m tired of staring at my
over the place,
unable to write, my fingers only finding the broken keys
like the way i can break up the smile in a simile
it amounts to a mountain of imagery but at the summit’s summary,
i find myself saying nothing. i should have said something.
how can you heal someone when you are part of the disease?
she knew, she must have known that
deep down we are all children reaching with dirty hands to grasp the cookie jar,
earnestly longing for more ice cream before we have to go home
where Our Father is.
Amelia Curran is a Juno Award winning singer-songwriter from St. John's, Newfoundland. Amelia has toured extensively throughout North America, the UK, Europe and Australia.
I used to think suicide was cowardly. I was angry with my friends who committed such an act. I avoided those who had tried to end their lives but lived. Then in 2004, with the death of my friend and roommate RM, I obediently cut her obituary out of the paper to put with the rest and discovered some were missing and that I had lost count of my dead friends.
I had lost count. I was twenty-six at the time and I had lost count. I was living through a plague that was taking people from me and I had not bothered to notice. ...continue reading →