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“Teaching is preventing: tools for mental health improvement in medical and
nursing school”
Healthcare students are constantly under a stressful routine, without any
prominent psychological support. They have to deal with patients of all health
backgrounds. These students must handle multiple tasks: studying dense themes of
lectures, assuring they understand and memorize everything and managing to get good
grades, in order to be a humanized professional once they graduate. This simple
overview shows how significant is the emotional and psychological load the healthcare
students must deal with everyday. Unfortunately, universities do not often treat these
situations with proper concern they deserve, and it relies on the students to organize
activities that show them tools to improve their mental health.
Thus, the FAMEMA local committee of IFMSA Brazil organized a project called
HumanaMENTE during September 2019. We prepared 4 meetings with different themes
about mental health and tools that would taught to the students, in order to empower
them to deal with their stressful routine. We announced the meetings on our social
media and in classrooms. They took place at FAMEMA classrooms every Tuesday of
September around 6pm.
Before the first meeting of the project, we asked people to fill up a formulary
based on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). On the whole, the answers
showed that most students were feeling stressed often due to exams and school work,
and this would not let them enjoy life as much as they did before. The first meeting was
about mindfulness: its definition, function and applicability. We actually did a
mindfulness session with the lights off and with everyone sitting in a circle with eyes
closed, creating a relaxing environment. After it, we let the students talk about how they
felt and how they could apply this tool in their routine. The second meeting was guided
by a Tai Chi Chuan professor, who taught us relaxation techniques based on this Chinese
millenar exercise that we often do not hear about, as a tool for physical and mental
health improvement. The third meeting consited of a Capacity Building integration as
we gave the students a Time Managing Training, showing them techniques that they
could use daily to optimize their time and work. We also talked about self-knowledge:
we must know our limits towards studying, doing extra-curricular activities and relaxing.
Our last meeting was a conversation circle with a psychologist that works in the Student
Support Center of FAMEMA. She talked about the most common causes to why students
seek for help there (stress, home-sick, anxiety and depression) and how the students
can always use the Support Center.
Therefore, by this project we gave the students autonomy to work on their
stressful routine based on relaxation techniques and physical and mental exercises that
often are not mentioned in medical and nursing school. Besides, we can offer this to our
patients in the future as healthcare professionals. By sharing this idea, we hope to
empower you in your local committees to help other students!