Panel discussion focuses on student mental health issues

As part of Mental Health Week, the UNMC College of Medicine Psychiatry Interest Group sponsored a panel discussion on Monday on stress management in health care students.

A presentation by Howard Liu, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, was followed by a panel featuring David Carver, Ph.D., director of counseling and student development; Joan Daughton, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry; and Michael Rice, Ph.D., professor of psychiatric nursing.

"The reality is we're all incredibly bright, intense people. If we weren't, we wouldn't be here," Dr. Rice said.

Care for the caretakers

But even students who were most successful and well-grounded as undergraduates tend to have their worlds rocked at an institution as demanding as UNMC.

And self-driven health care students tend to be among the worst at seeking help.

Dr. Liu has a few theories why:

  • Students may feel like they're in it alone (they're not, Dr. Liu said).
  • They think they just have to get through this tough time, life won't always be this busy ("I keep waiting for that to happen," Dr. Liu said).
  • They think they simply don't have other options ("I ain't got time to bleed").

Help is available

But at UNMC, the panel said, students can get help or take needed time off without fear.

Still, it may be tough to overcome personalities, stigma, culture. Dr. Liu noted that physicians have a 40 percent higher rate of suicide than the general population among males. In females, the rate was 130 percent higher.

"We probably know more effectively how to put an end to things," Dr. Rice said. "One problem among nurses, we have access to meds."

Change is underway

Dr. Liu hopes for a "generational change" -- of those not only willing to seek support, but to serve as role models for doing so.

Drs. Carver and Daughton noted that counseling resources at UNMC are readily available, highly confidential, and are looking to help, rather than label someone.

"Do whatever it is that you do that keeps you healthy," Dr. Rice said. "Listening to music for a half hour a day. Exercising. Whatever it is -- do that. And watch for our peers and colleagues. We're in this together. That's really what professionalism is about."

More information on student counseling can be found online.


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