Mental health stands as the most unaddressed challenge confronted by medical students in Pakistan

Globally, the prevalence of depression among doctors hovers around 10–15%. However, in Pakistan, a staggering 25–30% of doctors grapple with depressive symptoms, according to literature. The medical field emerges as a significant contributor to depression in the country. This realization propelled me to craft an article addressing this issue, emphasizing that depression doesn’t solely manifest during clinical years but begins to take root in a doctor’s medical school journey.

I am Dr. Muhammad Ali, and I’d like to share my experiences during my medical school journey.

Embarking on the MBBS path in Pakistan is far from easy. Students must achieve high scores in matriculation and intermediate exams and successfully navigate the highly competitive MDCAT. Upon conquering these challenges, they are thrust into a medical college where a new set of trials await.

While our medical schools enjoy international acclaim, they pose real challenges for students. Average students find themselves attending numerous classes, engaging in practicals, clinical rotations, and enduring a relentless series of examinations, including block exams, mid-term exams, monthly stages, substages, OSCEs, and send-ups. Over the course of five years, students study 18 different subjects and undergo approximately five exams per year.

What was once a highly competent student now grapples to pass annual examinations. Faced with self-doubt after exam failures, plagued by insomnia due to the stressful college environment, students may resort to self-medication with anxiolytics.

In my final year of MBBS, I had a fellow student who commenced his medical studies in 2003 and was still in the final year in 2022. The immense stress he carried throughout his academic journey is unimaginable. I witnessed many bright students experiencing anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even psychosis due to the overwhelming stress. The question looms: How can a doctor provide optimal care if they are not mentally or psychologically sound? The conditions worsen when these individuals enter hospitals.

There is an urgent need for behavioral therapies, psychological training sessions, stress management workshops, and mental health awareness initiatives. Medical schools should prioritize arranging workshops that focus not only on medical education but also on the mental health and stress management of their students.

Doctors are the assets of a nation, and their foundation should not be built on harsh memories and negative experiences from medical school. Instead, they should feel motivated and enthusiastic about serving our nation.

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