25 Oct 2020
The Ethos and Development of the Modern M4M
Hi everyone, my name is Kerry Wales and in 2017 I founded the modern UCL Medics4Medics Peer Support Group!
I was motivated to take a lead in medical student welfare following my 2016 iBSc research dissertation on UCL Medical Student Mental Health Help Seeking (part of Primary Healthcare iBSc). I hoped that a Peer Support Group could offer solutions to some of the problems I uncovered in my research. I’ll briefly describe my research and mention the key themes that were raised which were so central in my vision for Medics4Medics.
I conducted 12 interviews with UCL Medical Students with past or current mental health problems and asked them about their experiences seeking help and what barriers and stigma they encountered. These were long, in-depth interviews with an average length of 75minutes that provided insight on the roots of such barriers and stigma.
One of the startling themes to emerge out of my research was the noteworthy lack of openness about mental illness and psychological distress. Medical students were afraid to admit to their peers if they were having difficulties, for fear that they would be labelled “incapable, incompetent, and inferior”. My study highlighted the overbearing pressures and expectations that medical students felt to be perfect and superhuman, to be competitive with each other, and not show signs of “weakness”. In addition, I found medical students showed lack of recognition of their psychological distress and the issues it caused them. All my research participants described an inability to recognise their distress and a tendency to deny its existence or seriousness.
My research also revealed a significant lack of awareness about UCL and medical student support services and confusion about their various nuances. Medical students felt that the support services available to them were impersonal and didn’t have a good understanding about the pressures of medical school. Another important finding was a clear lack of trust in the Medical School Support Service and the General Medical Council due to fears of professional repercussions and fitness to practice concerns. Participants of my study told me they felt isolated with their problems and didn’t know where to turn for support.
My vision for Medics4Medics was to create a community of Medical Student Peer Navigators to open up conversations about mental health in Medical School and are trained to help students navigate wellbeing and support service. This Medics4Medics community would also hold fortnightly speaker-led events to facilitate open conversation among students, discussions with doctors with lived experience, mental health education and learning and support on a range of topics voted for by students. Providing students with access to health care professionals who help to defy the stereotypes, stigma, and perceived career repercussions was central in responding to the themes identified by my study. As director 2017-18, I organised events led by psychologists, medical consultants, FY1 doctors, student support mentors, UCL welfare officers, and members of the UCL Medical School senior leadership team.
Medics4Medics was founded to help students feel less alone, provide a space to openly learn about and discuss well-being and mental health without fear of judgment, help us to get the support we need and build a community that supports each other, promotes good personal well-being, and helps us to cope with the pressures of medical school. I hope Medics4Medics can be that for you.
Thank you so much to everyone who encourages open conversation about mental health, who is kind to others, does what they can to support others, and helps keep the ethos of Medics4Medics alive.