Talking About Mental Health: A Medical Student’s Perspective

This week is Mental Health Awareness week. Here in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, we do a lot of research into mental health and try to challenge preconceptions and devise effective treatment strategies.

Anna, a second year medical student, has written a personal account about mental health and the project she is undertaking this year.

Hi! My name is Anna. I am a second year medical student with a lot of problems and a lot of passion. I have an invested interest in mental health, and this a post about is my mental health stories project.

I know a lot of people with mental illness, and have experienced depression first hand myself. This inspired me to give a talk about it in semester 3 in the communication skills session entitled Mental Health Stories.

I brought with me my ‘looking after number one’ folder, in which I have put thoughts and lists, answers to difficult introspective questions, and several mind maps on what keeps me going. It is the result of my journey through recovery, and it was the basis of my talk.

Afterwards, I was amazed by the response I got from staff and peers. People told me that it had resonated with their own experience, or that they now understood depression in a new way, or that they knew someone that had depression and now they understood why they acted in the way they did.

This got me thinking: “Why don’t we have more conversations like this? More sharing of stories?” And one Monday morning I woke up with an idea fully formed in my head, as if my brain had been working on it overnight.

I decided to collect peoples’ stories. I put the word out on social media during Manchester Mental Health week.

I expected to get about three or four replies. I received 17.

People sent pictures, quotes and stories. Some poured their heart out to me. I felt amazed and honoured to receive so many personal thoughts on mental health. And everyone who sent me something said “thank you for talking about this”.

slid2[5]We do not talk about mental health enough. “We” includes wider society, at university, and within the medical school. As many as one in four adults have a mental health problem. That means if it isn’t you, it’s your friend, your family member, your patient.

Mental health affects everyone. It’s time to talk about it.

We have a duty to explore this issue. Those wishing to be doctors, like myself, will be involved in providing mental health care from the front line. We will be involved in shaping the future of mental health care in the NHS. And we have a responsibility to ensure that this is done to the best of our abilities.

Yet many of us say that we do not understand depression, or OCD, or BDD (Google that if you don’t know what it is). This is ok; it requires more than knowledge of the HPA-axis to appreciate what it is like to experience depression. And this is why I have started the conversation with those who have experience.

On the left wall just before the doors to the Consultation Skills Learning Centre in the Stopford Building is the board that I have taken over for my project. Please, have a look at it if you’re passing. I have put a comments section on it for any thoughts or reflections or contributions.

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Please continue to be a part of this conversation; ask people you know with mental illness what it is like. Read my board, and reflect on what it might have taught you. Contribute to it if you feel able to. And please, just spread the word.

Thank you for reading.

P.S. If you would like to contribute something to my project then there is still space. Email me at anna.sutton-2@student.manchester.ac.uk . There is no contribution too big or too small!

Feel free to comment below any questions you have or email Anna directly. You can also find out what support is available for students and the University through our counselling and wellbeing services.

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