Medical student mental health has historically been a topic most frequently discussed behind closed doors. Students feel uncomfortable discussing mental illness due to a fear of their disclosure coming back to haunt them in their pursuit of residency positions.
But when studies find that medical students are more likely to be affected by depression than the general public, and that nearly half of physicians have at least one symptom of burnout, the conversation around mental health shifts from being an option to becoming a priority.
In the past year, the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents has made raising awareness of medical student mental health one of its top priorities. In the fall, we established a Mental Health Awareness Task Force. And last month, COSGP launched and celebrated a novel project called OMS Day of Wellness, which is a day dedicated to osteopathic medical student wellbeing.
Throughout February, 33 osteopathic medical schools and hundreds of osteopathic medical students made the OMS Day of Wellness their own and hosted various activities to promote physical, mental and spiritual health and allow students to discuss their own mental health.
Here are some of the projects students participated in at OMS Day of Wellness events across the country:
- Students at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey pet therapy dogs, worked in the school’s community garden and took free zumba and bhangra classes.
- Students at the Kansas City (Missouri) University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine received free massages. They also took Polaroid pictures of themselves, wrote their wellness regimen in their photo’s margins, and hung these photos in their community center.
- At the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dothan, students sold sleep hygiene kits and wrote encouraging letters to one another and to their loved ones.
- At the Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine in Buies Creek, North Carolina, student leaders compiled a booklet of stories sharing their own experiences with mental health, then they handed it out to other students to encourage them to engage in discussions about mental health.
With the OMS Day of Wellness and Mental Health Awareness Task Force, COSGP hopes to start the conversation about mental health early: during medical training. Students are working diligently to get rid of the stigma of mental illness and raise awareness about mental health. We are encouraging a culture of cultivating mentally healthy physicians who aren’t afraid to seek help and assist their colleagues as well. If you would like to get involved with the COSGP Mental Health Awareness Task Force Initiative, please send an email to COSGPsec@aacom.org for more information.