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A Guide to Finding Medical Student Mental Health Resources

  • by Dr. Navin Prasad
  • Sep 14, 2023
  • Reviewed by: Amy Rontal

As a medical student, you’re no stranger to the pressures and demands of your chosen path. The journey to becoming a physician can be exhilarating and fulfilling, but it can also be taxing on your mental and emotional health. Long hours, academic stress, and the emotional weight of patient care can all take their toll—studies show that after two years in medical school, students are at a higher risk for burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression, especially as they approach residency. These stats are why it’s essential for medical students to prioritize their mental well-being. In this blog post, we’ll discuss why it’s important to nurture medical student mental health, and then delve into what therapeutic resources are available to you.

5 Recommended Resources for Medical Student Mental Health 

Neglecting your mental health during medical school can impact not only your personal life but also your ability to provide quality patient care, so it’s important you take time to focus on your mental well-being. Here’s some tips on where to turn to if you are looking for some help!

1. Your Medical School 

Mental health for health professionals (yes, even medical students!) has been a major focus over the past few years, accelerated by the pandemic and resulting burnout. Many schools have dedicated counseling services or mental health support available to students, who are regularly encouraged to take advantage of these resources.

Start by reaching out to your school’s counseling center or student affairs office to inquire about available resources. If you don’t feel comfortable with this approach, there should be a way to access these resources discreetly through your school’s website. Many schools will offer basic mental health support such as a social worker or psychiatric nurse practitioner.

2. Mental Health Professionals

Consider seeking help from a licensed mental health professional such as a therapist or psychologist. You can find these professionals through recommendations from peers, faculty, or by using online directories. Searching online for a therapist (comparing prices, reviews, location, etc) is a reasonable start, or you can ask someone for a recommendation.

You can see someone in person or virtually, and you will probably prefer to see someone with PhD or PsyD credentials. A PsyD is a clinical psychologist who undergoes more hours of supervised clinical practice compared to a PhD who focuses more on research and often has a niche area of expertise.

3. Online Platforms

Several online platforms and apps provide mental health resources, self-help tools, and virtual therapy sessions. Apps like BetterHelp, Talkspace, and Calm can be beneficial for managing stress and anxiety. These may be more useful if you are trying to “dip your feet in” rather than looking to commit to more expensive and thorough psychotherapy.

4. Support Groups 

Joining a support group for medical students or healthcare professionals can be immensely helpful. Sharing your experiences and challenges with peers who understand your situation can provide a sense of community and emotional support. Just finding a group for socializing that gets you away from the academic side of life can be beneficial.

5. National and Local Helplines

If you’re in a crisis or need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to call a mental health hotline. In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

4 Mental Health Options Available to Medical Students

When seeking mental health resources, it’s essential to know the different types of services that are available. You’ll want to pick the one that’s best suited for you and what you’re looking for. Does one of the following sound like a good fit? 

1. Individual Therapy

This involves one-on-one sessions with a trained therapist or counselor. It can be especially beneficial for addressing specific issues like anxiety, depression, or stress management. Therapists are very strict about patient confidentiality—notes are kept very bare-bones without too many specifics so as to protect you in case there is a breach of protected information.

2. Group Therapy 

Group therapy sessions allow you to share your experiences and learn coping strategies from others facing similar challenges. They can provide a sense of camaraderie and support. Group therapy is obviously less confidential but offers the benefit of having partners to talk to about what you’re going through. 

3. Medication

In some cases, medication prescribed by a psychiatrist may be necessary to manage mental health conditions. Medication works best when prescribed in conjunction with therapy but can be used as a standalone treatment. 

4. Self-Help Resources

In addition to seeking professional help, practicing self-care is vital for maintaining your mental well-being. Make time for activities you enjoy, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, maintain a healthy diet, and stay connected with friends and family.

Additionally, books, online articles, and mobile apps often offer valuable self-help tools, relaxation techniques, and strategies for maintaining good mental health!

Further Reading

Remember, seeking help for your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness. As healthcare providers, it’s essential to take care of ourselves so we’ll be better equipped to care for others. Finding mental health resources and understanding your options is the first step towards a healthier, more balanced life as a medical student. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it, and communicate with your professors or advisors if you need accommodations or time off to address your mental health needs! By taking care of your mental health, you’ll be better equipped to excel in your studies and provide compassionate care to your future patients.

For more (free!) posts by Blueprint tutors, check out these other articles on the Med School blog:

About the Author

Navin studied Biochemistry at Santa Clara University, attended Georgetown University School of Medicine, and is a current resident physician at the Internal Medicine Residency at TriStar Centennial Medical Center 2. Navin has been working for Blueprint since 2020 and has general interests in medical education, trends in medicine, and wellness.