‘A critical time’

House calls for increased mental health resources for students, DOs

Impassioned discussion leads profession to support taking steps to reduce stigma, raise awareness of mental health issues.


Following an impassioned discussion, the AOA House of Delegates passed a resolution Saturday recognizing the issue of mental illness in the medical profession. Submitted by the Ohio Osteopathic Association, the resolution calls for the AOA and other groups to take steps to reduce the stigma of mental illness and advocate for an increase in mental health resources for medical students and physicians.

“We are at a critical time with regards to mental health,” said Angelo Mascia, OMS III. “It is crucial that students are able to rely on the AOA for support.”

Speaking on behalf of all medical students, Daniel Krajcik, OMS III, the national parliamentarian of the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents, expressed similar sentiments.

“We cannot refer this one more year. Last year, we had a student commit suicide at one of our [schools],” he said. “It has been our nature to turn and welcome those who need [our help the] most with open arms into a warm osteopathic hug, and to not approve this this year would be going against that standard.”

Counseling led to action

Resolution co-author Crystal Piras, OMS III, told The DO that the stress of her first two years of medical school—the tests, the long hours, the preparation for board exams—led her to seek counseling at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) in Athens.

“I loved having someone outside the medical school to talk to while I was studying for Step 1,” she said. “It helped me get a perspective on what’s important in life. I realized that I didn’t need to be 100% focused on studying and preparing for this exam.”

But when she spoke to her classmates, she learned that many of them didn’t know their school offered free counseling to students.

She hopes the resolution will inspire schools to put more effort into raising awareness of the resources available to students and spark discussion of mental illness throughout the profession, which will hopefully encourage more physicians to seek help.

“We take great pride in taking care of our patients,” she said. “We want the best for them. But who’s taking care of us? If we’re not at our best, we can’t provide the best care. We have to develop a way to take care of ourselves.”

Four years ago, the AOA passed a resolution calling for greater awareness of depression among U.S. medical students. Discussion of mental health hasn’t increased to an acceptable level within the profession, Piras said, so a new resolution is necessary. Also, the previous resolution was limited to medical students, but mental illness affects physicians and residents as well, she noted.

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