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Healing Hands, Hurting Minds: NMC addresses mental health issues among medical students

The NMC has now set up a 15-member committee to dig deep to understand why a staggering 37,000 medical students wrote to the commission complaining that they were suffering from potentially risky mental health ailments that have possibly led to at least 122 reported suicides in the last five years.

Fatima hasan14 May 2024 08:10

Healing Hands, Hurting Minds: NMC addresses mental health issues among medical students

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The National Medical Commission (NMC), India's medical education regulatory body, has finally woken up to a decades-old problem that has troubled aspiring doctors and claimed the lives of hundreds of brilliant minds - depression.

The NMC has now set up a 15-member committee to dig deep to understand why a staggering 37,000 medical students wrote to the commission complaining that they were suffering from potentially risky mental health ailments that have possibly led to at least 122 reported suicides in the last five years.

As per NMC data, 64 in MBBS and 58 in post-graduate courses died by suicide in the last five years. The NMC took the decision to form the committee following an online survey conducted on the issue.

Medical students have been dealing with mental issues because of various reasons including hectic work schedule without any break and instances of ragging in colleges.

Shruti Desai (name changed), 28, who studied gynecology at AIIMS Delhi, admits she had suicidal tendencies during her initial years as an MBBS student. She was suffering from “severe depression.”

“I never actually attempted suicide, but I was having thoughts. I was in mental agony,” she told Education Post.
Reasons for Desai’s mental condition was not one but several. “Study workload, long hours, lack of sleep, lack of appreciation, lack of friends to talk to because of lack of time to talk to them, the pressure of failing after coming this far. There are a multitude of reasons,” she said.

The panel will discuss the issues that the medical students face and take in consideration various recommendation received in the survey, including identification of students who are vulnerable, suicide watch, facilitating students with better and friendlier work environment, and round-the clock professional counselling services.

Other recommendation include support and orientation in medical colleges for new students, ways to cope with homesickness, strengthening of anti-ragging measures, mentoring programs, and observing World Mental Health Day and World Suicide Prevention Day.

Another measure includes regulation of duty hours for PG students to not more than 80 hours a week, which is the international norm. According to government sources, currently, PG students are working as many as 100 hours a week without any break.

Indian Medical Association (IMA) has welcomed the decision hoping that the recommendations will be implemented at the ground level.

“The formation of the committee is a welcome step. It’s really tragic that medical students are taking drastic steps during their study. I hope the recommendations would be implemented at the ground level," said Dr Vinay Aggarwal, past president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

The recommendations will be submitted to the health ministry for its proper implementation. Dr Aggarwal cited several reasons that force medical students to take such a decision. "The medical line is very competitive. Here are limited seats against which (several) candidates apply. Now-a-days, many of the students come under pressure, the moment they get admission. The pressure may be financial, family issues and others,” he said.

“The counsellor who is appointed by the authorities should take into consideration the present state of affairs of the candidates," said Dr Aggarwal, who is also the present chairman of the action committee of IMA.

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