As you may already know it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and I wondered if any of you might have any questions relating to mental health?
I know how terrifying it can feel to talk to a lecturer or tutor about a mental health condition, but I want to reassure you that your university is there to help.
Our Education team sets standards that all UK medical schools have to meet in this area – and an important one of these says that medical students ‘must have access to resources to support their health and well-being, and to educational and pastoral support’. So your medical school will have systems in place to support you – and, don’t forget, they want you to do well too!
And you don’t necessarily have to talk to someone connected to your course. Most universities offer a range of services for all students to access, whether that’s a health service, a dedicated student support team or even a confidential counselling service.
I wanted to try to dispel some myths about what might happen if you tell someone about or ask for help with a mental health condition while in medical school. I’ve picked out a few examples from our website that I thought might be most helpful, but please feel free to post your questions in the thread and I’ll try my best to help.
‘Staff will treat me differently if they know I have a mental health condition.’
Most staff will not know that you have a mental health condition. Those who do have a duty to support you.
‘Medical students, like doctors, must be perfect and indestructible – we should not need prescription medication for our mental health.’
At any one time, 15–25% of the general population experience mild-to-moderate mental health conditions. This includes doctors, many of whom will take medication for their conditions. This is perfectly normal and acceptable.
‘If I have a mental health condition, it will damage my career prospects.’
Mental health conditions are common in the general population and commonly occur in doctors. Legally, employers can’t discriminate against you if you have a mental health condition.
‘If I tell my medical school that I have a mental health condition, I will automatically be referred to a fitness to practise committee.’
This should not be the case. If you engage with your medical school and ask for support and follow the advice given, then there will be no need for a fitness to practise committee to be involved.
‘The GMC will refuse to grant me provisional registration if I have a mental health condition.’
This is not true. The GMC only refuses registration if it believes your condition would put patients at risk. Where an applicant understands their condition and asks for appropriate help and support, the GMC will grant registration.
‘Once I’m a doctor, if I have a mental health condition, the GMC will automatically put me in their fitness to practise procedures.’
The GMC is only interested when a doctor’s mental illness puts patients at risk. The vast majority of doctors with mental health conditions are not a risk to patients. If a doctor understands their condition and seeks appropriate support, the GMC does not get involved. The GMC never removes doctors from the register solely because they have a mental health condition.
General Medical Council
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- 16-05-2016 15:36
I would like to add my experience to the above comments as a GP. You will find students (and doctors) who have mental health problems. These range from simple anxiety (perhaps after poor performance in an exam) all the way to significant disorders needing a psychiatric review in hospital. The important thing to remember is that many of these conditions are treatable. Mental health disorders, if not adequately treated, not only can affect your performance in examinations and assessments, but also put your patients at risk. I encourage you to speak to your undergraduate tutor, but remember your own GP is also a first point of call. You will find that universities are understanding when it comes to students will illness and can provide you with extra help with your studies. Please do not suffer in silence.
Blue Peanut Medical