Britt Suann – Destigmatising mental health

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Being a medical student has been a journey both academically as well as personally in mental health. Generalised anxiety is something that has been with me since a young age and it will likely continue by my side lifelong.

When my anxiety began, I found it to be like an unruly puppy; unrelenting, indefatigable and uncompromising. It would pull me on its leash and impact my life in an attention-seeking fashion. It has taken me six to seven years, but my anxiety is now tameable, with identifiable warning signs and workable solutions to occasional flare ups. Anxiety is no longer holding the leash; I feel as though I have the control.

I am open about living with anxiety because I hope to contribute to a growing movement of destigmatising mental health, particularly within the medical field. As medical students, we idolise our mentors in the hospital. From afar, senior clinicians can seem almost superhuman, all-knowing and unperturbed by the greatest of challenges. We don’t see them waver or show any signs of weakness.

We want to be them, but superhuman is a very high standard to live up to.

Photo credits to Liz Fosslien from @lizandmollie

Encouraging clinicians to be open about their personal struggles in medicine can help us to destigmatise asking for help and can begin the process of re-writing the current standard of “you can either deal with this industry or you can’t”.

Junior doctors have already come a long way toward changing the attitude of mental health in the community, as have movements such as Crazy Socks 4 Docs. They are helping to create a tide of change within the community.

Hopefully the stories to follow in Humans of Medicine will contribute to this destigmatisation and reveal that we all deal with burnout and Imposter syndrome amongst other aspects of mental health, and as a community we can deal with these challenges by supporting one another and encouraging open discussions about mental health.