Dealing with Depression and Suicidal Thoughts as a Med Student

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Medical students experience depression at higher than average rates. Here’s what to do if you are facing depression in med school.

    Experiencing depression is a risk for any aspirational post-graduate student, but med students are especially susceptible – particularly during dedicated study periods for major exams. Even those who are doing well academically can easily slip into a sub-par emotional state when under the stress of a dedicated study period; in some very unfortunate cases, that depression can even lead to thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate depression and maintain a positive outlook. Here are some tips for dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts as a med student during dedicated study period.

    Take advantage of resources. AMSA reports that studies have shown medical students face a higher than average risk for depression and anxiety. For this reason, there is typically a strong demand for counseling services on school campuses. If free counseling is available, it just might be the perfect opportunity to work through thoughts with someone who has helped others in the same situation. Talking to a counselor can be an especially good option for med students who are hesitant to share their feelings with classmates, because professional counselors are duty-bound to avoid judgements; plus, there are no strings attached and no fears of breaking confidence. What’s said in the four walls of the counselor’s office stays there, so for some students, it’s the ideal outlet.

    Try finding a confidant. As stated, some people are concerned that talking to other students about the stress they’re under will be perceived as weakness by classmates who appear to be managing things better. But in a large peer group, there’s bound to be at least one person willing to commiserate – often, someone who is feeling the pressure just as hard and could use a sounding board of their own. By listening to what others are saying in group conversations, you may be able to identify a friend who will be easy to talk to about your struggles. A word to the wise, though: Anyone who is willing to listen to your struggles deserves equal time to be listened to.

    Take time for yourself. Failing to take time out for yourself in the middle of a challenging program is a near-guarantee you will push yourself to the edge of personal tolerance. For some people, it ends up becoming the breaking point. During dedicated study period, schedule a specific amount of “me time” each day; it can lower stress levels, improve physical health and stimulate deprived senses. In short, it’s just good for you. Furthermore, “you” time doesn’t have to be alone time; it can be time spent with an old friend, your significant other or a family member you’re close to. Companionship with the people who matter outside of your student life can be a powerful weapon against loneliness and depression. Dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts as a med student is a challenge no one enjoys, but there are ways to cope. Implementing these practices can help you defend yourself against this unwanted side effect of a stressful study period.

    About the Author

    Erica Forrette is the former Director of Marketing at Cram Fighter.