Always occupied with the needs of others, medical students often put their needs and wants aside. Sometimes for an unhealthily long time.
Although the consequences of such self-inhibition are not readily apparent, they can have an insidious impact on academic and clinical performance. But the story I am about to tell is something far worse.
Not the loss of grades, but of life.
Such is the story of a classmate of mine. A bright and “happy” young man and an only son, with his whole life ahead of him, who sadly burdened far too much for far too long and could not take it anymore. The news of his suicide hit our entire class like a train. Everyone was speechless. Some of us cried, while others demanded explanations. He always seemed so happy. How could he do this?
But what is there to explain? Has this not happened often enough for us to learn our lesson?
No one knows why my classmate did what he did, but we all know he was not alone. He was part of an all-too-common trend.
Yet, as students, all we hear from our teachers are cliches. Everything will be all right. You should be grateful just for being in medical school. We hear these so many times that we internalize them and repeat them to each other. And, I’m afraid, one day we’ll being saying this to the next generation of medical students.
It’s time to stop the cliches. A serious problem demands a serious discussion of all stakeholders. And a commitment to changing the culture of academic medicine.