Adam is nursing student, external coordinator for Kärleksakuten in Gothenburg and a volunteer for the association Tilia which works for young people's mental health.
I love bubbles. To me, NH is a bubble, a strange opportunity where you can let go of your everyday life and slide into an isolated world with different premises and social opportunities. To get a break in their routines and slide into a new context with new people and new perspectives. It was something I really needed in the approaching autumn darkness.
But I also came to this NH with an assignment. Based on my experience in the association Tilia and my own experiences, to hold a workshop on treating mental illness in healthcare. I then had some prior knowledge before, but also took me time to gather new data. I read statistics and articles that showed that medical students generally have a higher prevalence of mental illness than other students. It felt like this perspective was important to address.
Once at the workshop, I had an audience of about 30 medical students. I went through mental illness, different key concepts, statistics, as well as risk- and protective factors. Then I wanted the audience to use these concepts and tools to discuss in hives the contributing causes of medical students' high prevalence of mental illness. With their insight and some of my prior knowledge, we came to a few pieces.
Many medical students are high-performing people who come from high-performing environments. High-performing people often put a large part of their own value into their performance. They tend to have high self-esteem and low self-esteem, which means that you have to prove your worth to yourself and others by performing high all the time. Then this is reinforced by several high-performing people in one and the same class creating situations where you trigger each other. This leads to a huge pressure to constantly perform, and that a failed exam can be seen as an extremely great defeat.
We also mentioned that one's self-image as a doctor could include so much more than just studies and work. It also includes requirements for one's leisure time and which person one should strive to be – a form of perfectionism. Among other things, you must be involved in associations, eat healthy, be a role model, be generally educated, be good looking and have interesting interests.
I then asked about something that I myself have experienced and believe exists in the medical profession, namely that there is a widespread macho culture. This is manifested in the fact that it is not okay to complain about their work- or study situation, or to prove vulnerable at all. I feel that in healthcare it is virtuous and desirable to work “to death”. I often hear boastful comments disguised in humility such as “Born, I have not had time to cook lunch all week. But that's how medical life is.” You have to sacrifice your own health for studies, associations or the job, it is what is implicitly expected of one.
In the end, I linked to what we had discussed in treatment in healthcare. How should a doctor be able to treat a person who suffers from mental illness, and who barely gets out of bed with sympathy, if the doctor in question has not examined himself, demonstrated vulnerability, and sought support and comfort from others. I think it is one of the cornerstones of being able to improve the treatment of people with mental illness, and be able to create caring relationships with these patients. I supplemented this with some advice on how to support and listen to someone who shares their inner self and talks about their mental illness. To treat a person who seeks care for mental illness with respect, sympathy, understanding, and at the same time actively listening will lead to a nurturing relationship with better data collection and ultimately a more effective treatment. I am convinced of this. We can not continue on the same path, where, for example, young people who have already lost confidence in the adult world enter care and completely lose hope of ever being understood or helped. No pill alone can help the negative trend around mental illness unless we in healthcare change our attitude and our treatment in these cases.
The rest of the weekend was magical. Everyone in Linköping had done a great job of organizing housing, good meals and seating. You were really pampered between awesome lectures, workshops and meetings. When you finally leave Linköping and the bubble, you become a little empty. What once gave so much meaning and energy no longer exists. You get a little NH-bakis. But its alright, then I can look back and realize what a wonderful weekend it has been and what amazing people I have met. But for me personally, it was most important to be able to talk about my heart issue, Reach out to people and feel that it made a difference. To hear about the new IFMSA project on mental illness and that so many more than I am passionate about this area and want to work to make a difference. In the end, that is what IFMSA is and should be about. To feel a strength and power in each other and together contribute to a positive change. Thank you all involved for a wonderful weekend and hope to see you at the next NH in Uppsala 2017.