Mental Health Awareness Week

Medical students have a whole week of activities planned to increase awareness of mental health issues.

FoMD Staff - 13 March 2013

(Edmonton) Medical students with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry want to improve the lives of people struggling with mental health issues.

The students are hosting the eighth annual Mental Health Awareness Week, March 11 - 15, to help raise awareness and educate their fellow classmates, physicians, and the community.

"When you're in medicine, for even as short a time as we've been in medicine, you begin to see that it [mental health] penetrates every area of medicine whether in the family physician's office or in the hospital," said Sarah Riedlinger, a second-year medical student who is organizing the event. "It's really prevalent and I think there needs to be more awareness and focus on some of these bigger concept ideas because so much of the population does have some sort of mental health disorder."

As in past years, the lunchtime speaker series will run every day this week. Topics include schizophrenia, eating disorders, the stigmas surrounding mental health and work-life balance. A medical student will also share her own battle with a mental health disorder.

A guest at the lunchtime speaker series speaks to U of A medical students about mental health awareness.

Thursday marks the mental health trade show which draws numerous organizations that will set up booths to promote their program or cause.

New to the schedule this year are some evening events that will focus on promoting mental health in the community such as a yoga class, a session providing tips for relaxation and a dance class.

"These events are meant to improve your own personal well-being," said Riedlinger. "It's a time out, a study break, whatever you need it to be."

The students organizing Mental Health Awareness Week say that mental health disorders affect 7 per cent of the campus population - a staggering number. They're hoping that classmates and colleagues already practicing medicine will take part because the issue is so prevalent.

"No matter what specialty you're in you're always exposed to some mental health issues," said Ori Scott, another second-year medical student on the organizing committee. "You need to know how to handle it without stereotypes and stigma."

"It's important to be aware of the local and community partnerships that are available," said Madura Sundareswaran, a first-year student. "Even as physicians our scope of practice is going to be limited, so how can we leverage these things that already exist in the community; the best time to learn about these things is during our training."