New Study Assesses Mental Health of Medical Students

The medical profession can be a highly stressful one. Medical doctors and mental health doctors must address difficult situations every day. They often encounter crisis situations and must possess the mental capacity to be able to react swiftly and accurately to address the needs of their clients. Medical students learn many of these skills during their years of education and clinical practice. This intense protocol can cause its own stress-related issues, and many medical students have disproportionately high levels of mental health challenges. Studies that examine the mental well-being of medical students and professionals have relied on a variety of tools to do so. In a recent study conducted by Rael D. Strous of the Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center at Tel Aviv University in Israel, the mental health of medical students was assessed using self-reports.

For the study, Strous asked 110 first-year and fifth-year medical students to write a one-page synopsis of their own mental state. He encouraged them to base their diagnoses on the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, and evaluated the responses for similarities and trends. Strous found that over half of the students (55.5%) disclosed that they had symptoms of some form of mental illness. Although they were mostly minimal, the symptoms that were most commonly reported were those for mood issues and obsessive or compulsive behaviors. Psychotic symptoms and schizotypal behaviors were the least reported among the students.

When Strous compared the results by gender, the data revealed more Axis I disorders among the women than the men, specifically anxiety, depression, and social phobia. Strous also found that the rates of psychological symptoms decreased from year one to year five among the majority of the students. Although these results are based on self-reports alone, Strous believes that they are still significant. “If true, the findings suggest that it would be important to further efforts in developing support programs for medical students during their studies coordinated by appropriate mental health professionals,” said Strous. These findings could also suggest that medical students with a history of psychological symptomology may be more empathetic to the clients they serve simply because of their own experience with similar conditions.

Strous, Rael D. et al. (2012). Medical students’ self-report of mental health conditions. International Journal of Medical Education 3, 1-5.

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  • Mahoney

    June 19th, 2012 at 4:13 AM

    There are a lot of things that are wrong with the way that many medical students are trained and much of it boils down to the severe lack of sleep that many of them have to deal with.
    It’s not right that our students in whom we are placing so much trust and faith are sleep deprived for a good bit of the time. That alone would make me think twice about allowing one of these students to have any kind of say so about my health if I am in the hospital.
    being deprived of sleep can do sick things to the mind so maybe this is where a lot of this negative self reporting of symptoms stems from.

  • mel

    June 19th, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    If these are the best and the brightest then shouldn’t they realize when they need help and ask for it?

  • Jardine

    June 20th, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    There is really no clear cut way to know if the disorders which are being experienced by these medical students aren’t disorders that they would not have developed in the first place whether they were a medical student or not. Of course since this is the career path that they have chosen then there is no way to go back and know that. But maybe this is someone who was already predisposed to heading in this direction and the stress of the job simply exacerbates the development of those symptoms.

  • sage dawson

    June 20th, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    You obviously have never done anything as intense as medical rounds if you think that it is as easy as 123 to seek and get help.
    This is such a competitive field that mist of mus would rather curl up and die than to admit to a superior that we are floundering and that we could use a little help.
    Just admitting to the wrong person that you are having a hard time could mean the difference to getting priority surgeries and being relegated to the clinic.
    Believe me, we do all have our issues, but those of us who are the most interested in getting ahead in this field are never going to admit that unless things come to a critical mass.
    And even then it will only be done uder extreme duress!

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