The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has formed the national IMA committee for emotional health and well-being of medical students and doctors — “Doctor Know Thyself”.

IMA national president Ravi Wankhedkar explained that doctors are becoming an endangered species.

“In the last few years, the stress of students and practicing doctors have taken a serious turn. Students of medical colleges in India experience the highest level of stress than students in any other country. At the tender age of 18, the students are under tremendous pressure to understand, grasp, assimilate and utilize information about the complex human body and mind as well as the endless list of diseases that affect it.”

He added that they have to learn the skills necessary to treat the patients and perform their duties diligently under challenging circumstances.

“The stress levels only increase with post-graduation entrance exams and the arduous years of residency in overcrowded hospitals with overworked doctors. Doctors are surrounded day and night by disease, distress, dangerous infections, demands from patients and death. This often leads to burn-outs, depression, mental health challenges and even suicides,” he said.

Reports of the World Health Organisation states suicides is recognized as a public health priority. Annually more than 8 lakh people with disturbed mental health commit suicide. Undetected, under-treated or untreated depression underlies most suicide attempts, which is preventable. Suicide is the second-most leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults (age group 15 to 29 years). In India, neuropsychiatric disorders contribute to 11.6% of the global mental health disease burden. Medical students and doctors have a significantly higher suicide rate than the general population.

“Practising doctors are facing numerous issues in their daily routine. Government red tapes, government apathy towards healthcare sector, undue expectations of people leading to violence are making doctors’ lives miserable. While the IMA fights for the cause of fraternity, addressing the mental health of our doctors and medical students becomes most important,” said R.N. Tandon secretary general, IMA.

“A holistic approach to preventive and promotive care would go a long way in improving emotional well-being among doctors. Creating awareness and interventions will help bring down the suicide rates. Professional support systems, helplines and counselling centres will be promoted by the IMA to help students and doctors. The unique IMA mission for emotional healing and mental health of practising doctors and students shall create positive mindsets by reducing stress levels among medicos,” said Nilima Kadambi, chairperson of the IMA committee.

Medical students and doctors have a significantly higher suicide rate than the general population. Presently, this is at 28 to 40 suicides per 1,00,000, the IMA said.

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