By Kelsey Lyon, OMS II
Saturday, October 10, 2015 is World Mental Health Day. As medical students, it is important that we address and maintain not only our physical health but also our mental health. As individuals who progress through intense and rigorous education and training, it is easy to let one’s mental health fall to the wayside. It is easy to get caught up in stressing for the next exam, worrying about how you are going to do in your next clinical rotation, stressing about the growing financial debt you have from the high cost of school, figuring out where you will end up for residency and ensuring you get a spot in the specialty you want, etc. While all of these common stressors for medical students are inevitably going to cross through ones minds over the course of ones time in school we must not let them get the best of us.
While training to improve the health of others, we must not forget about our own health. The long hours, high volume workload, and little time for sleeping, eating, and recreation can make medical students prone to depression, anxiety, and burnout. It is important that we find ways to prevent this from happening among students. Solutions could be on a simple individual scale or on a larger school wide scale. For example, at our school, Ohio University – Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, there are two student organizations, the OU-HCOM AMSA Chapter and the OU-HCOM Psych/Neuro Club, that have come together to promote World Mental Health Day to students by hosting a movie night for all medical students, encouraging them to take a break from their studies for a few hours and come watch a fun movie and have some good food. These two clubs are also spending the day increasing awareness about mental health to both medical and undergraduate students by letting them know what services are available to them at the university. Furthermore, a popular activity done at many university’s to promote mental health among students is the “doggy de-stressor”. This activity is one in which the university or an organization arranges for therapy dogs to come to the school for a few hours and encourages students to come out and take a break from the stresses of school and play with the dogs.
While those are examples of more large-scale efforts to increase mass awareness of the importance of mental health, similar efforts can be done on a more individualized scale. Examples of more individualized ways to promote mental health include taking one day off each week to participate in hobbies, ending each night by watching an episode of your favorite TV show or reading a chapter of a book for pleasure, or having a weekly, standing “date night” (with a significant other or a close friend). These are just a few things that can be done to allow oneself to escape the stressors of school and get out of their head for a little bit.
As we progress through school and beyond that into our professional careers we must not forget the importance of giving ourselves some “me” time. Never forget the importance of taking a step back sometimes and remembering the bigger picture of why we are in school in the first place. It will make us better students and better doctors.