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How to Deal With Depression at Medical School

Mental health is a hot topic on everyone’s lips these days, and rightly so. Students suffer more from anxiety and depression than many other groups and often don’t know where to turn. I want to offer some tips you could try to help manage your depression at medical school. Here are a few things that helped me:

1. Accept that you have depression at medical school

This is by far the most difficult thing to do, but it is perhaps the best advice I can offer. For a long time, I convinced myself that I was just overworked, not getting enough sleep or I didn’t feel that bad, but this wasn’t true. I had depression and it took me a long time to realise it, but I didn’t start managing it properly until I accepted it.

2. Talk to your GP

Despite the fact we may be studying to become doctors, we can often be the last ones to go and see our own. An important thing to remember is that going to the GP to talk about your depression at medical school doesn’t mean you’re weak. For me, it meant accepting that I was tired of feeling the way I did and I wanted things to change. Talking to your GP opens up avenues of support to find the right help for you.

3. Talk to your friends

Your friends will want to be there for you, so try to talk to them about how you’re feeling. They may even be feeling similarly and will appreciate having somebody to talk to about it. Keeping it to yourself only furthers the isolation you might already feel. Being able to talk to people and feel supported is so important – I can’t overstate this enough, and this greatly helped my depression at medical school. 

4. Tell a trusted member of staff

This one may prove difficult, but it is in your best interest. Let a trusted member of staff at your medical school know that you’re going through a difficult time. This means that if you must take time off or retake an exam, they’ll be aware of what’s going on in advance and can give you any additional support should you want or need it.

5. Looking after yourself physically helps you mentally

In my experience, this is a big one. I never used to exercise much and the thought of going for a run or going to the gym filled me with dread, but I always feel so much better afterwards. This isn’t to say running 5 miles a day will keep depression away, but for me it helped. Find something that engages you, that keeps you busy and active because taking good care of your body helps take care of your mind.

This list is not exhaustive, and they may not work for you. I’m not saying do these five things and the clouds will lift, but I do want to say that for me these things helped, they made my depression at medical school manageable and allowed me to work on getting better and get my life back on track. I hope they can be of some help to you too.

Words: Ruari McGowan

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