Mental Health

26 Oct, 2018 | mental health | 0 comments

Do you remember your MB2 orientation?

It is quite hard to forget, you’re so excited to finally be here and the tone of the addresses given that day create a nice mix of caution and euphoria to them; it’s really hard to not remember.

There’s the other orientation before you start your clinical years and after being in the system a couple of years at this point, you begin to wonder what else there could possibly be to know.

Believe me, there’s a lot you don’t know still. The system is very different and you need a heads up at least because I didn’t know is not an excuse that’s going to stick on this side of things and the system can eat you up.

The one part of the sessions you will have, which doesn’t get as much importance as it deserves is the part delivered by the psychologists. To us naïve students, they’re just there to tell us to be careful, avoid drugs and not commit suicide when it gets tough.

They do mention that they’re there for us and their doors are especially open to students, but by this time in the session, we can’t wait to go get lunch or whatever, so attention has become a hard thing to find in the room.

The one part of the sessions you will have, which doesn’t get as much importance is … the part delivered by the psychologists.

Like many people, I took for granted the importance of knowing there was a place for people like me. People who have peculiar challenges and might need help adjusting to the new school system and life in general.

A few months along the line, I found myself struggling to sleep, detaching myself from people and breaking off relationships with people.

Stress, I concluded.

After a while though, I realised no amount of alone time, video games or living the night life would help me shake it. After a brief stint with sedatives to numb my pain, it was time to seek help and making that admission in itself was draining.

After talking to my friends who were eager to help, I still felt I had little to no control. It took my worried mother and a contact to suggest seeking help at the school’s department of psychiatry.

I was very apprehensive initially, because I thought hey, psychiatry, crazy stuff. I was even more embarrassed by the fact that the building was located next to my chapel and after walking past it a hundred times, I was now going to go in.

I remember the first visit vividly. It was break time and my mom, who had had enough trying to make me feel better, showed up and picked me up. She asked if I knew one Mx. Doe. (Not their real name) WOW! They had given me a few lectures in third year but I doubt she’d known me so hopefully that wouldn’t come up.

I asked a friend to come with me because I didn’t know how to process everything that was going on. The welcome was quite warm and that was all I needed to talk. It worked out, the therapy, and after months of regular visits, I began to handle the stress better and do away with that that wasn’t worth carrying.

 

Chale, I stress pass! Rings a bell huh?

This school has a cocktail of ingredients that it serves everyone that passes through; stress being the main active ingredient. Couple that with the mere presence of disease all around us in the hospital and the occasional issues at home and you have something not many people can handle. Thinking of the brain as having only a finite capacity to withstand all these stressors, the balance which is hard to find here gets unsettled some more.

The manifestations of these challenges form a part of a whole spectrum that includes depression, anxiety and the physical symptoms to schizoid behaviour. You reach that point where you consider dropping out, but you decide against that because that would come off as weak. Then you take a few days off school because you think it’s going to help but a couple of days become four and … you get where this is going.

If I failed to mention earlier, the hardest part of this process is seeking the help. You struggle with coming to the conclusion that you need help and then there’s the added dynamic of stigma.  In this closed society, most medical students view emotional and mental challenges as a weakness. Although mental health challenges are widespread in the general population, research indicates the same negative attitudes are prevalent among medical professionals.

Healthcare professionals, including students receiving medical training, exhibit stigmatizing views toward those with mental illnesses.

This doesn’t help individuals with challenges because you would normally expect a group that has been exposed to certain different behaviours to have a more tolerant view and be understanding of the nature of some of these challenges and the negative impact of stigma yet what do we see? Name-calling, finger pointing and head on face to face ridicule.

This compounds the situation. Same studies report medical students would be more comfortable treating patients with just medical cases, not those with co-occurring mental health challenges.

 

Healthcare professionals, including students receiving medical training, exhibit stigmatizing views toward those with mental illnesses.

What is the way forward and how can one get help?

Initial feedback from some people who admittedly have challenges was not all positive, with many suggesting you just suck it up and move on; but we’re not going to do that. There may be the need for a peer support group system where people just like us could honestly talk about challenges and help each other deal, free from stigma. Till something like that materialises, the Department of Psychiatry has its doors open to us and all you have to do is walk in, tell a nurse you’re a student and you need someone to talk to. They will take over from there and you would have taken the first step to getting better. Staff there are trained to handle matters with all confidentiality and privacy. They know you’re a student and will be as practical in their therapy as possible.

What is important in all this is to note that it is absolutely okay to not be okay and everyone who feels challenged or at their limit is in the right the right place to get all the help they need.

So for all fighting heir silent battles, keep fighting and don’t give in. And for all that are aware of these struggles, let’s create the environment that allows fresh air to find those who are struggling.

This story will continue… 

Anon.