Starting conversations about wellbeing and mental health

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Medics4Medics Has a Blog! Come as You Are.

By Davina Puri, Assistant Director • 14 Nov 2019 • 0 comments

Greetings. If you haven’t seen our Facebook post, Medics4Medics (M4M) has decided to create a blog. This post is an extension of that Facebook post, and focuses on thoughts around sharing experiences. Skip to the end for the tl;dr.

Every year the most highly rated and attended Medics4Medics event is ‘My Experiences of Mental Illness at medical school’. In this event (spoiler alert) medical students and junior doctors share their personal accounts of experiencing mental illness. One attendee-turned-peer-navigator said of the event: ‘It was a turning point in Medics4Medics for me’. Shared experiences have the potential to be powerful and invoke hope and action.

But sharing experiences as a medical student can be terrifying and exhausting. Yes, the GMC will not automatically get involved if you have a mental illness. And yes, employers do not have the right to know about, or discriminate on the basis of your mental illness. And yes, we all know someone with a mental illness (But not you, right? You’re okay?). But often, the stigma can feel pretty real. (We’re going to talk about the stigma of mental health in upcoming posts, but here’s a nice lil review to get you going). I met a fifth year Imp*rial medical student last week, who reflected sincerely on his psychiatry placement (inhale now, reader): ‘I was scared going in, but you know, they weren’t violent towards me at all! They were mostly just screaming and hurting themselves.’ We do hope this blog can contribute to destigmatizing mental health, BUT it’s not our primary aim to show that people with mental illnesses are worthy of respect. Instead, we hope that in providing a platform to share our experiences, we might impact people going through similar situations to us. If this reduces the stigma, GREAT. If it scares future colleagues away, that’s their prerogative. Come as You Are.

Circular purple badge with white text: \
Taken from the Etsy page of Recovery In The Bin (Link to RITB, Link to Etsy Page): a ‘User Led group for MH Survivors and Supporters’. They advocate for the dignity of ‘unrecovered’ people.

I’ve included this badge in the intro post to say three things:

  1. RITB is an incredibly important movement, and one inspiration in creating this blog.
  2. We’re not trying to show one path of mental health. In the M4M event I mentioned at the start, a junior doctor talked about her struggles with management to get a flexible or part time junior doctor contract, which would allow her flexibility to work with her illness. She was mid-way through this conflict at the time. ‘WOW’ I thought, ‘you really can be mentally ill in a way that is disruptive to normative ways of working, and still be a junior doctor.’ All the stories I’ve heard of mentally ill doctors until now were of those at acute crisis points: They would take time out, ‘recover’ and get back to full-time work, or move out of medicine altogether. Some of us will fit into this recovery model. Some of us will not. Come as You Are. Help us create narratives of mental illness in medical students that are reflective of who we really are.
  3. Telling the same story over and over is exhausting and can alter the narrative in your own head. We think having a space to articulate and have agency over your detailed story is important. There’s a part in Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special Nanette, where she describes how she has, over her career as a comedian, altered her narrative of being assaulted into a humorous story. This started first as a coping mechanism, and then to sell the joke. She repeated this altered form so many times that it almost becomes believable to herself. Whilst I’m not suggesting the trip to occy health or filling in an IAPT referral form is akin to selling yourself for a profitable comedy routine, there are some parallels. From my experience, when you have to repeat your mental health background in assessments, it’s exhausting and turns into a story to fit with the (demand/understanding/capacity) of the professional that you’re speaking with. (more on this topic to come soon...) So, having a safe space where you can express, and reflect back on what you write (is it accurate? do you actually believe what you just wrote?), can be important. It really doesn’t have to be published on this blog. You can journal, and no one has to see it.

But we believe it is important to get honest narratives out, for our own sanity.

If you made it this far and are a lil dizzy, here’s a summary of the post:

Why are we creating a blog?

  • To create an open and anonymous space to share experiences
  • To understand the dynamics of mental health specific to UCL medics and push for changes, especially if specific patterns of narratives emerge
  • To show what Medics4Medics actually do

This blog aims to evolve, building an understanding of how you react to the blog content, and to reflect upon how we can be more effective in helping medical students at UCL with their mental health.

So, what content will you see here?

  • Real, personal experiences of mental illness and mental health support services
  • Interviews (and MAYBE VIDEO DIARIES...) with people on their mental health
  • Event summaries
    • So that you stay up to date with Medics4Medics, and we increase our ~~accountability~~
  • NO advice
  • NO big claims made
  • We hope to describe trends in mental health services, and recurring themes that affect your mental health specifically for medical students, dependant on how many posts we get

Potential post topic examples:

  • Supporting people whom you care deeply about, whilst revising for exams
  • An honest account of having a chronic mental illness
  • A reflection on experiencing trauma on wards
  • How you attempt to navigate mental health services (alternately titled: bounced referrals, re-referrals, lost referrals)
  • Experiences that bring you joy or have helped your mental health in medical school

The details if you want to contribute:

  • Posts can come in any form; from a few sentences to three pages of streams of consciousness. We’re not trying to showcase super eloquent prose, just reflections of your experiences of mental health.
  • Posts can be anonymous.
  • For this academic year (2019/2020), they will be reviewed and edited by Xara, a third year English Literature student, and Davina, a third year iBSc Medicine/Medical Anthropology student. You will still have the final edit.
  • If you have a story to share but don’t have the time or confidence to write, we can listen and write it up with you.

If this sounds like a project you want to contribute to, or have any blog topic suggestions, please email us at UCLmedicsgroup@rethink.org or zchadcp@ucl.ac.uk

Watch this space and stay tuned for more!!!

Comment if think this is it’s a pile of _ _ _ _, have suggestions to make it less _ _ _ _, if reading this was better than a _ _ _ _, or anything on this spectrum + beyond. Come as you are.

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