Medical student to share her personal struggle with depression during Mental Health Awareness Week

During Mental Health Awareness week initiatives led by medical students, one of our students shares her personal struggles with mental health.

Raquel Maurier - 13 March 2013

When Jocelynn Gray couldn't muster enough strength to get out of bed and her parents said they were genuinely scared and worried about her well-being, Gray knew she needed to get help.

The second-year medical student started seeing a psychologist through the physician and family support program and was diagnosed with depression. After receiving therapy throughout the summer, she thought she would be ready to continue her medical school studies in the fall of 2012.

"It was a lot of pressure and I fell apart all over again," she says.

Gray was concerned her depression was severe enough that she might actually harm herself in some way, so she reached out to the support group at the Learner Advocacy Wellness office through the U of A's medical school. They encouraged her to go to the ER right away for a psychiatric consultation. She was referred to the psychiatry unit at the U of A hospital and took a brief medical leave from school.

"The psychiatrist wanted to know if I had a traumatizing childhood, a bad relationship or some sort of trigger that caused my depression," says Gray. "But there wasn't a reason. It's just like cancer; sometimes patients with no risk factors get it. It doesn't make it less valid for them to have cancer."

Her psychiatrist urged her to take anti-depressants.

"I was very resistant. I thought: my mom's a psychologist, my father is a physician and I have a psychology degree, I don't need help. I felt that getting help meant I was weak or that there was something wrong with me. And I thought I wasn't sick enough to need treatment. I think that's a pretty common feeling when it comes to mental illness…you know, I'm not hearing voices and I'm not suicidal, so I don't need help.

"But I was at the point where there was no other option. Therapy wasn't working, nothing else was working. I wasn't sure if I could go back to school and medical school has been my dream for so long, I didn't want to have that taken away from me because of an illness. So that was enough to spur me to go ahead and take the anti-depressants."

Gray was starting to feel better, but after a trip to Mexico in February, she felt things spiralling again after being away from her support system. Many of her classmates were with her on the trip and noticed that their friend seemed withdrawn and anxious.

"I want people to feel free to ask me questions - what's it like seeing a psychiatrist? What is it like being on anti-depressants? How has it affected my family and romantic relationships? How has it affected school and extracurricular activities?"

Gray's friends and family have been supportive. She is feeling better now and has ensured her schedule gives her time to herself and to be with her support system.

"I want others to understand that it is OK to talk about mental illness. It is OK to ask questions. What hurt me the most was when people didn't say anything about it. I want to show future physicians that I may not be a stereotypical person who has depression and it still happened to me and it could happen to them too, and to not be afraid of it."