Medicine is a challenging degree. Many students have travelled interstate to be here, may be adjusting to living in a metropolitan area, making new friends and adapting existing relationships. Many students juggle busy Uni schedules with part time work, family commitments, or other extra-curricular activities. Once the excitement of getting into medical school starts to dissipate, it can be very easy to become overwhelmed by the change and forget to look after yourself.

In 2013, Beyond Blue’s National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students revealed some very concerning statistics:

  • 43% of medical students have a high likelihood of experiencing a minor psychiatric disorder and 9.2% have very high levels of psychological distress compared to 2.6% in the general population
  • 19.2% medical students, including 31.8% who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, have had suicidal thoughts in the past year
  • 21.3% are moderate risk drinkers while a further 4% are high risk drinkers
  • 52.3% experience emotional exhaustion
  • Unfortunately, mental health issues are often viewed as a “weakness” however this is not the case and these statistics reflect how common and serious it can be for medical students. The mental and physical wellbeing should be an important priority for a medical student.

The wellbeing of medical students at the Australian National University is of upmost to the ANU Medical Students Society (ANUMSS). The Wellbeing Officer position and the wellbeing handbook was created by the ANUMSS in 2010 as part of an initiative designed to address the increased rates of depression, anxiety, and stress related health problems seen among medical students.

In 2019, the ANUMSS launched the ANU medical school student support centre website which has fantastic up-to-date resources categorised into common problems encountered by students. Whether it be applying for leave, reporting bullying or looking for information on psychologists and counsellors in Canberra, this website is a great place to start.

As the Wellbeing officer for 2020 you are always welcome to contact me at any time with concerns or questions. Whether you just want someone to have a coffee and a chat with or you need direction toward a particular service or resource, I’m your gal. As well as that, there are also a number of activities to look forward to throughout the year designed to promote the health and wellbeing of our students including:

  • Donate for life walk
  • The Buddy Program
  • Inter-year cup
  • Blue week
  • Wellbeing evening

At ANU we want to de-stigmatise mental health issues and ensure all our students maintain a healthy study/ life balance so they can enjoy their time at medical school.

All the best with your studies this year and I hope you enjoy your time at ANU!

Sally Laughton
Wellbeing Officer, ANUMSS