About Undertreatment of Medical Student Depression
It is normal for students to feel overwhelmed due to the many demands of everyday life. With the number of deadlines that students are expected to meet throughout the school year,it is common to often neglect other areas of life. From skipping breakfast once in a while to pulling all-nighters for several consecutive nights, prioritizing other responsibilities becomes more difficult. One important aspect of one’s life is his or her mental health. When one neglects this vital area, he or she is more likely to develop one or more mental illnesses. One of the most common mental illnesses, especially in students, is depression.
A particular group of students that suffers from depression is medical students. There is a significantly higher rate of depression and suicide in medical students compared to the rest of the population. One of the biggest problems that researchers have found is that medical students are less likely to seek help after being diagnosed with depression, which can lead to even bigger problems in the future. A study performed by three individuals, Jennifer Tija, Jane L. Givens, and Judy A. Shea, provides more information about the undertreatment of depression in medical students. In this paper, I will analyze the methods and results of the study and focus on the reasons behind the reluctance of students to seek treatment for their depression.
The article, Factors Associated With Undertreatment of Medical Student Depression, written by Tija, Givens, and Shea, describes a study that was performed on medical students at the University of Pennsylvania. The purpose of this experiment was to determine the measures that students with depression were taking to be treated. The students were given what is called a cross-sectional Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and sociodemographic questionnaire (219). This type of questionnaire consists of standardized questions that are designed to determine the severity of depression in an individual. By using this method, the observers were able to collect data efficiently as well as receive answers in a more uniform way, allowing them to analyze the data easily.
There were 322 students who successfully completed the questionnaire, varying from first year students to fourth year students, since each year in medical school involves different amounts of work and concepts to be learning. In the article, a clear hypothesis was not stated. The goal of the observers was to figuring out why students avoided seeking treatment. Out of the 322 students that participated in the study, forty-nine were diagnosed with depression.
Only twenty-six percent of those students said they received treatment such as counseling or antidepressants. In order to understand the undertreatment of depression, the observers identified the barriers that prevented medical students from seeking treatment. Some of the reasons that the students provided included: lack of timeinadequate number of sessions available from university-based servicesthe stigma of using mental health servicesfear of a negative impact or careerand fear that a diagnosis would enter the academic record. A few students also stated that they believed treatment would not help them (220-221).
It was found that a previous history of depression, whether in the family or the individual, and age were the most prevalent factors that affected the number of students that sought treatment. Those who were twenty-five years old or older and those who had affiliations with depression prior to attending medical school had a higher rate of seeking treatment. The age factor was consistent with previous studies which proved that older students were more likely to seek help. The reason that was proposed for this outcome was the fact that the older individuals were more educated, giving them more information about depression and what they could do to prevent or treat the illness. Students that reported suicidal ideation were less likely to get help. According to the authors, there were some possible reasons for this finding. They may have been underestimating the level of treatment because respondents may have been reluctant to reveal participation in psychotherapy or current antidepressant use, leading to misclassification bias. In other words, participants may have been withholding information while answering the questionnaire, such whether or not they actually receive treatment and what specific treatments they use. This refers back to the reasons why students do not receive treatment. Students may have felt ashamed or fearful of revealing such personal information to others. In concluding the article, the authors provided ways that mental health services and medical institutions can improve to prevent the rate of medical students with depression from increasing even more that it already is. They emphasized the importance of detecting the symptoms in the early stages, making it easier to treat the individuals. Educating students was also emphasized in the article. Based on the data, students who were more educated were able to better understand their mental state and were more willing to seek treatment for their depression. By taking such measures, it would help medical personnel to focus more on the health of their patients rather than their own.
The purpose of this article was to describe the study developed to determine the reasons behind the reluctance of students to seek treatment for their depression. There were some limitations to this study, as the observers added in the article. The students were not asked if they used medications other than antidepressants to treat their depression. That may have changed some of the percentages as to how many students sought treatment. The researchers only focused on counseling and antidepressants. They also excluded some other factors that could have caused depression such as debts probably as a result of student loans and alcohol or drug use. But it was explained that alcohol and drugs were not considered since a previous study did not find a connection between them and depression. While the results of the study were consistent with previous studies, I think the results could have been more accurate according to the population of medical students if more medical schools were tested. Each medical school has different methods of educating their students, with various amounts of work and activities for students to participate in. Just like the different factors that cause depression in medical students, there could be a difference in the factors associated with the treatment of their depression. Depression is a highly-discussed topic in the field of psychology because of the impact that it can have on a person’s life. Depression can cause someone to eventually take their own life. Although it ends his or her own suffering, it can create suffering for others. This is why it is important to have accessible mental health services that are effective and beneficial to individuals struggling with mental illnesses. In the field of psychology, studies that focus on the factors that cause depression and prevent individuals from seeking help can be very helpful to society as a whole. Even if a study focuses on one group of people, other researchers can pull information from the data collected and incorporate it into developing new ways to improve the mental health of several people in society. Not only can this study contribute to psychology, but it can also contribute to the general knowledge of society. Studies similar to the study discussed could be expanded to different groups of students as well as within the general population. Future studies could also focus on specific treatments for depression to determine what is most effective and eventually develop new methods to help those who need it. Depression is found in people all over the world. People other than psychologists can also become more educated in the causes of depression and how it can be treated. With the aspects mentioned in the article that are associated with depression, those who deal with similar factors can also monitor their mental health as a result. They can also know the importance of catching depression early, whether it is in themselves or others. I recently learned about depression and suicide in medical students from a TV show. Because the show was so dramatized, I didn’t think it was common. But this article helped me learn how prevalent it is in medical students. The article emphasizes the importance of early identification and possible treatments. It can positively influence the health and well-being of current medical trainers and patients. The observers’ perspective of the issue of depression coincides with my views about the issue as well. Although I have never dealt with depression, I have learned to understand its severity and the urgency of reporting signs of depression in those around me.