An Open Letter to the Stressed Medico - in Context of the Recent Suicide of an MBBS Student

An Open Letter to the Stressed Medico - in Context of the Recent Suicide of an MBBS Student

Depressed medical students

stress in medical students - how to cope with it

I just came to know that a student of first year MBBS had committed suicide on 6th July 2015 because he thought the course promoted rote learning and he did not find himself fit for the course. So he decided it was not worth living anymore.

The course of MBBS is a highly demanding one – both in terms of physical and mental toughness from the student. A study conducted by my friends at my institute found that 25% of medical students show signs of depression - which is highly alarming. So there are a huge number of students who would, at some point in the course, seriously consider ending their life.

My friend Sarath, wrote an article about his first year MBBS experiences, and he encouraged students to communicate to him by email. He received an email from such a student who was having trouble coping with the stress the course exerted on her. She was severely stressed and was not knowing how to go ahead with her life. So me, with my friend Sarath, sent her a reply explaining to her why it was normal for her to feel what she was feeling, and why she should hang on to it, like the rest of the medicos. With her permission, I am posting here the edited letter, and our original reply to her.

Hi. I am Neha(Name changed for privacy). I am a student of first year MBBS in XYZ college. My professional exams are coming up shortly. To be frank, I have been not interested in this course because I knew I would not be able to study so much by heart. I really have no idea how to learn. This college is the worst place I have ever been to. I was a good student - I had full A+ in my 10th boards. I secured 94.3% in 12th. I was ranked respectably in the PMT examination. Choosing XYZ College was the worst decision I have taken in my life. Reaching this place, I have never felt like reading. I cannot concentrate in my studies here. Till today, I have passed the internals only with my friends’ help. I think you can understand when I say like that. I have always tried to skip those small test papers whenever I can. So at the moment I feel like committing suicide. I have been doing a course which I do not like. I like studying, only if that’s interesting. I always liked to do something different and interesting. But my mother never allowed me to think of anything else. She is the one who have pushed me to do this. So, can you help me in anyway? I don’t want advices. Can u tell me whether there are any 3 year diploma courses? Can I stop this course here and continue this later? May be, after 3 years?

Here is the original email I sent her, as a reply to the email she sent to Sarath.  

Hello Neha, 

Sad to know that you did not find MBBS interesting. In fact, it is extremely boring for the first year. During lectures, you may find that even a lizard moving on the wall will be more interesting than the subject the teacher is talking. I completely agree with you in that regard and I would say, it is the same for most people, even though they say it otherwise. However, the interesting part of it comes only when you are posted in clinics. The clinical postings are by far the best part of the course. Interacting with the patients, taking history, helping the doctors examine, assisting them in the procedures, help them in making the diagnosis, think with them, it is totally worth it. It has got an element of puzzle solving to it and is extremely enjoyable. You won’t know the fun involved in it unless you do it once.

You said no advices. Well, I was not planning to give you any, in the first place. For the questions you asked, there are a couple of options that immediately come to my mind. If you are into engineering, you may go to ITI and get a diploma course in that. If you want to stick with medicine, there are some other options as well. There are certain lab technician and OT technician courses available and some institutes do provide that. I cannot provide you with details, but a quick Googling will give you some. You may even go for BSc nursing, which is supposed to be far simpler, but that would mean you writing the entrance examination again. But there is one thing to keep in mind. When you go for all these courses, your career will be spent working under Doctor(s). And I can tell you, it is not at all fun. Doctors can be really arrogant. At that time, you should not regret the decision you have taken. So it is not an easy decision to make, it is an important and career twisting decision and I would recommend that you take your time in making it. If you want to stay away from this field at all, there are plenty of Degree courses available. Will you be able to continue once you return? I would say it is highly unlikely on a Govt Institute. Regarding your institute, I would recommend that you talk to your Dean on the possibilities of such an option. This is not an exhaustive list, and I am not a career consultant. You may be able to get better advices from other people.

However, there are things that I can say to you from my area of expertise. There was a friend of mine, the only Anatomy examination in which he was passed was the final examination, rest everything (including all internals, class tests, even small 10 mark tests) he failed miserably. But still he could pass the final exams and the reason he says is that he did not leave hope. He clung on to it, like a bat on a tree branch, under all pressure circumstances, and he did it finally, with comparatively good marks. So from your description, I am finding you in better position and I cannot think of any real reason why you have to quit. If he (91% marks in plus 2) could do it, you definitely can.

You are passing through a time where most of the people think of either quitting, running away to the Himalayas, suicide, etc and it is nothing new, because first year is supposed to be the toughest year of MBBS. And like most people say, “this too will pass”. What you are feeling right now is the same feeling felt by thousands every year(including me) and 99% of them somehow cross it and it is very difficult to be in that one percent people. The only thing you have to do is cling to it, and never let it go. It is up to you whether to do it. But I would say you do it, because if you won’t it is talent and resources going waste. You leaving the seat means one MBBS seat at your institute is going waste and along with it, goes all the money the government spent for you and more important than that, one talented person does not get to study the course she deserves, simply because she was not motivated. You said you cannot cram things up. So can’t many and they still pass the course with flying colors. There are ways to achieve it, but I cannot tell you because you said: “No Advices”. But there is one thing I can assure you: for somebody as talented in studies as you(evident from your marks), I can guarantee that MBBS is the most suited course, not because her mother told her to do it, not because her society told her to do it, but because she deserves to do it. Saving lives is one thing that only a handful of people in the world can do, and you should thank God that you got a chance to do that, because most people wishes to be one among them and still they don’t get a chance. It is that chance that you have in your hand and it is up to you whether to use it or to throw it away simply because you were afraid of one stupid examination.

If you still feel that you don’t want advices on how to crack the exam, then at least give me a reply and tell me that you are doing it yourself, without my help. 
Best wishes for your exams and let me know your results once you get it.

We got a reply after 2 months saying that Neha had passed the first year mbbs examination with 57% marks, and is now continuing with her second year MBBS at her college.

Here is what we understood from this. It is natural and ok to have stress, but it is not okay to not talk to people about it. Apparently Neha was reluctant to talk to her friends or a psychiatrist about it, but still she got a listener who could understand what she was going through. Here is a word of advice for all medical students. Always talk. If you feel stressed, talk to a psychiatrist. Talk to anyone – it need not be your friends. It is not important to whom you talk to – what is important is that you talk. Just get it out of your system. You may find it difficult to talk about your feelings, but I guarantee you, in the end, you will feel much relieved that you did.

I hope you found this helpful. Please leave your comments below.

 

Tags
Submitted by abhijith (not verified) Wed, 07/08/2015 - 01:19

Great thing to do both of you. I was actually disappointed and irritated by the insensitive insensible and immature dramas and soaps going on in many groups guessing on the probabilities of the death, better courses, who was at fault and what not. To me literally these accounted to nothing but gossip. But what you have written out here can extend support to many out there who are stuck and confused about a way ahead. Respect to the concern amd time you have set aside for giving such a thought.

Submitted by aswin (not verified) Wed, 07/08/2015 - 02:12

people say, we rarely have time for ourselves.
so we can imagine what it would be like, to spend time for others. Hatsoff to Sarath for what he did and to type it out for creating such a platform .

Submitted by aparna ajith (not verified) Fri, 07/10/2015 - 00:45

Hey Rana,
It is really a commendable job that you have done.Being a gregarious animal, We have to be cautious of many things in the society especially when we have some weakness no matter whether acquired or innate.In the hustle bustle of daily life, people are really stressed and they don't even get platforms where they can share or confide their anxieties and worries.For a doctor, it is fine and it is his duty to curb and tackle the issues of people destined to mental challenges, psychological problems and so on.But once it is brought to the limelight,none of our friends or even close relatives will have the concern or affection they had hitherto.From there ownwards, it will be a new phase in the life of that person and there will be many to sympathise as well.I guess this is why most of the students or youngsters are reluctant to disclose what is pestering their minds.It can even curtail their demands in marriage markets also.Why I told this is I knew a close friend of mind who got divorced with in an year after marriage and now she is taking psychiartrist's help.Albeit the marraige was conducted with such pomp and grandeur and everything, her life has become confined to the walls of her own home under the care of her parents.It is not at all predictable what befalls to a human being in the next second and if we some gets problems for their mind,people degrade them as "mental","lunatic" and whatmore.see, this is how the society treats these kind of humans who come under the clutches of these mental issues due to their subtleness of mind.The query which always haunts my thought is whether consulting a psychologist is worse than having cancer or attack.I would like to cite the instance of a very close junior of mine who was undergoing a mental depression due a break up happened with his girl friend.He tried to discontinue the course and even went for some counselling sessions.His mother being a Govt.hospital nurse was so concerned whether her son will be treated from an other angle by his friends if he happens to share this counselling experiences.Luckily after the counselling sessions by his close friends and seniors ,he has changed the decision and come back to the campus but he lost an year.still its ok and many of his close friends and me had gone to his home and spent days to interact with his family and making them confident that there are many friends who still wishes to see him with all his vitalities and funs and roaming in the campus and enjoying with his buddies.He is just an instance and there are many.But there are only a handful who take these people and their problems in a right way.What most people do means they will try to get rid of the burden and if possible will inform parents to take their child back to home.This is the real face of the society where we live.when adversities comes,all people will move away from us.There are lots and lots like this and only a few share their problems and accept and rest wants to hide or they are too much concerned of their fellowman and their image.So the change has to come in the mindsets of man and how he evaluates these people.
Rana,
I appreciate the way you dealt with the matter.Its my earnest suggestion to make people aware that there are problems that afflict the minds aswell and try to make them free from the shackles of the preconceived notions of "mental patient" and" crack man".who knows this plight can happen even to our dear and near ones and being an MBBS student, you can do lot more in this field.Above all, serving patients should be deemed as a service to the fellow beings though the adage has attained a level of satisfying the inordinate avarice for money by many doctors.These are my honest and sincere observations as a human being or a social worker or a research scholar.If my comments hurt you in any way,am sorry for that.Anyway, keep going and all the best for you and your friend..regards.
Aparna Ajith
PhD Research Scholar
Dept of English
CURAJ
Ajmer
Rajasthan
email-ajithaparnakv4@gmail.com, 2014phden02@curaj.ac.in

Submitted by Rana Prathap Fri, 07/10/2015 - 01:19

In reply to by aparna ajith (not verified)

Hello Aparna. Thanks a lot for your comment. And you are right, it is high time society should start seeing mental illness as any other kind of disease that requires treatment right away. I think it will take some time. When society reaches that level of maturity to accept mental diseases like any other disease, that will be when people will feel free to consult a psychiatrist when they feel they need one. This will bring down the suicide rates of the country considerably. This is one area where the west are considerably ahead of us. They have a model that's worth imitating, I would say.Thanks again for stopping by.

Submitted by NIVEDITA RAJAGOPAL (not verified) Fri, 07/10/2015 - 14:52

thanks both of you! I am preparing for my 1st year exam which is going to be in 3 weeks... I feel very stressed nd sometimes lose my hope. reading this I feel motivated nd now I hav a belief in myself and I am sure that I will be able to crack it easily.

Submitted by Rini Joseph K (not verified) Sat, 07/11/2015 - 01:06

Good work rana and sarath. ..well chosen words. ...and stuff that really needs to be told to all undergoing this phase of medical career. ...

Submitted by Ajeena J (not verified) Mon, 08/17/2015 - 08:13

Thank you for these motivating words.It inspired me much.

Submitted by sujala (not verified) Wed, 08/19/2015 - 16:34

i had 4 months to give my second mbbs exams ..can u help me how to complete my portion

Submitted by Parminder Kaur (not verified) Tue, 10/20/2015 - 23:24

I live in andaman n recently andaman has started its own medical college, I got late admission n it's been only 17 days of my joining n aftr 1 months is my 1st semester xam n I can't by heart d complicated names of ol d bones, nerves, muscle attachments. I sometimes feel m giving a burden to my parents on joining dis collg n sometimes I feel 2 suicide, I jst dnt knw wht 2 do, m so stressed, tensioned, n my head is paining a lot. Wht shud I do? Plzzz help me, plzzz..... :(

Submitted by Rana Prathap Tue, 10/20/2015 - 23:57

In reply to by Parminder Kaur (not verified)

Hello Parminder Kaur. I want you to believe me when I tell you this, I know exactly how you feel. And it's not easy.

For your studies, I want you to read this article by my friend (https://www.typeitout.com/article/my-first-year-mbbs-experience). There is everything you need to know about studying for first year. if you contact him by email, he will tell you some study tips. He do reply to emails. I want you to do your best for the exams. If you still don't make it, it's okay. The marks of a semester exam won't determine your future in anyway.

Now regarding how to handle the tension and all. There is nothing more that I can tell you that I haven't told in this article. These are difficult times. I just want you to hang in there. This too will pass. I promise. Later on, when you look back, you will be glad that you hung on. Don't stay alone and let the bad thoughts get to you. Stay with your friends. And work hard. If hard work do not cut it, work harder.

Remember, this too will pass.

Submitted by Vaishnavi (not verified) Sun, 11/01/2015 - 08:44

I'm a student of first year MBBS and these were the exact feelings that I'm experiencing. Im still in the second month of my course and I'm already scared about the exam. This article and the one written by your friend have lessened my fear to an extent. Thank you so much! I feel much more hopeful now.

Submitted by Passive (not verified) Mon, 11/09/2015 - 02:12

I already got a back in first year, and guess what in all three subjects with a matter of 3,2,5 marks, it's shameful and I'm definitely depressed regarding getting this matter, I'm feeling hopeless but yet I'm trying to clear it this time, I'm doubting myself,we are given a 6 month sitting period to study, an the Institute also sets more difficult papers for the repeater batch, much more in depth, and that's kind of hard to keep up with the load.. Plz advice me, to clear it out this time

Submitted by minnu (not verified) Mon, 11/16/2015 - 22:09

How can I express my relief after reading this !.Thank you a lot...

Submitted by Ojas (not verified) Sun, 04/03/2016 - 11:38

I am in 2 nd MBBS fourth semester. Got 60% marks in first year ,failed in microbiology and FMT in third semester.I know I am good at studies but find these subjects boring after a time.I can't study regularly, it is always before the exams. I am worried about PG entrance. Please help me how to concentrate more on studies.

Submitted by soumya (not verified) Tue, 09/27/2016 - 00:06

rana pratap and sharath..great job guys..one important thing in life is not to give up..that is the first thing i have learnt in my 1st year..family is a great support..especially your mom and dad who believe in you..so atleast we must give it a try...hardwork and presence of mind are the key to success..try your level best ans see the results..

Submitted by Reader (not verified) Mon, 11/28/2016 - 09:06

Hi I want to ask about my boyfriend.
He is pursuing MBBS and is currently giving his proffs of the 4th year. He is hell lot stressed and sometimes doesn't even want to tok about anything. This stress has almost made him silent. Please advice me how should I motivate him or rather how to decrease his stress levels because I know he is good in studies and will pass his proffs with flying colours. I am really tensed about him. Please help

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