When Patients Die

Being A Doctor, Food For Thought, Mental Health, Tips and Advice

Having a patient die is something that is expected to happen to all medical students and junior doctors, but how are we supposed to cope when showing emotion can often be seen as a weakness in the hospital?

Our friends over at bloodbonesandbodies examine what it’s like for medical students dealing with when patients pass away and preparing for when they will have to be , and ways we can try make it easier to cope with such a potentially disturbing, shocking experience, given the lack of education and awareness around the topic. See what they have to say over here.

Image courtesy of bloodbonesandbodies

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R U OK?

Food For Thought, Mental Health, Tips and Advice

 

Ever been totally overwhelmed? Upset, angry, frustrated, annoyed? Ever wanted to scream or cry or both, but you just couldn’t? Ever felt like you couldn’t possibly keep on the way you were but you had to? Ever felt like if you just get those feelings out, you’d be ok?  Ever wished you had someone to talk to, but you were always afraid of being judged, being a burden, being a party pooper?

Of course you have. We all have. Some of us to a greater extent than others. And while it’s often a totally normal part of life, sometimes it doesn’t go away and get better. It escalates and escalates, and without realising it you’re on a downward spiral with no idea how to get yourself out. If only someone could help. Could reach out and give that you that support to pull yourself back up. If only some one asked you, “are you ok?”

Tomorrow is R U OK? Day, a day all about remembering to reach out to each other, to support and look after each other, and not be afraid to approach someone you’re worried about. A lot of people will think “well it’s not my place, I don’t know them that well, surely someone else is a better person for the job. They probably wouldn’t want to talk to me about how they’re going, what good can I do?” Honestly? A hell of a lot.

Feeling like you belong, feeling connected and supported is half the battle won in many mental health issues. And simple, day to day things, like listening and being inclusive and noticing when someone isn’t quite themselves. And when you do notice that something is up, not being afraid to genuinely ask the person you’re worried about if they’re ok. They might not have even really realised how not ok they were until someone pulls them aside, sits them down, and expresses concern.

It’s much more than just laughing as you ask your friends if they’re ok while you’re digging in to whatever morning tea or BBQ your uni/school/workplace has put on for the event. It’s more than just going through the motions, and it’s definitely more than just one day a year. It’s taking on the responsibility of finding out if someone is need of help, and being ready to support them in getting that help. So it’s understandable that you might not feel ready to do that for someone you don’t know very well, but you can very easily bring it to the attention of someone who is better suited to approach the person.

If we can foster this idea of “togetherness”, foster a culture of caring about each other day to day, foster the idea that mental health isn’t taboo and we CAN talk about it, slowly with time it’ll become easier. Easier to ask for help, easier to recognise when someone might need help, and we might not even need events like R U OK? Day, because it won’t be a novelty anymore. It’ll be a habit.

The Little Things

Food For Thought, Mental Health, Tips and Advice

You’ve just come back home from a full day of lectures and you’re dead tired. No one else seems to have noticed though – you’ve become quite good at putting up that mask. Exams are a few weeks away and you need to study, but there’s also that assignment you need to finish by the weekend. But hang on, your colleague on one of the committees you volunteer for has just asked you to do a job for them because they can’t anymore. Arghhhhh!!

Sound familiar? There’s no doubt that life as a medical student can be stressful. We’ve all been though it – travelling to and from uni/placements, doing assignments, studying for exams, keeping up with part-time jobs, not to mention the endless extracurricular activities medical students also seem to participate in.

So it’s inevitable that there will be times where everything will be a bit too much, where everything and everyone will seem to be conspiring against you. And that’s when the cracks that you’ve kept so well hidden may start showing, to the point where it can start affecting you and in turn, others as well.

So how do we stop those cracks in their tracks? Or perhaps not even allow the cracks to appear in the first place?

 

1) Step back for a moment

Take a deep breath and remove yourself from the situation for just a minute. It can be easy to vent your anger and frustration on others, but clearly, there is a reason why your committee colleague (or whoever it might be in your case) is acting the way they are. And very often it’s a good reason – they may well be in a very similar position to the one you’re in.

Taking the time to step back for a second and consider the issue from someone else’s point of view can be hard, but is so important in coming to terms with why things have turned out the way they have. You may also find the reflection to have a calming effect, allowing you to refocus and let rationality take its course.

 

2) Communicate

Now that you’re in a better frame of mind, you can go about ameliorating the situation, and it all starts with the simplest of actions – a conversation. If the issue is over a group member not doing their task in an assignment, talk to that member. If you want to just let things out, talk to a friend, family member, or anyone you can trust.

Yes, it can be incredibly difficult to speak up about your problems when everyone seems to be sailing so smoothly. Keyword there is ‘seems’ – the medical student is a very peculiar breed, and though they maintain a brave face, I can assure you that EVERYONE knows what it’s like to struggle.

This false bravado and the stigma attached to showing vulnerability in the medical profession is certainly something we must improve in order to promote a more supportive student culture, one where there doesn’t have to be an onus on a struggling individual to find the help they need all on their own.

However, the fact remains that keeping your struggles to yourself is just like putting yourself in a pressure cooker. Eventually it’ll get to a stage where it all just boils over and no one wants that to happen. So, I implore you to talk to somebody, anybody. Because there will ALWAYS be someone to listen.

 

3) Put things in perspective

Your problems are important and they are real. But in the end, understanding that whatever happens there’s still going to be a tomorrow and that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel can help appease those negative thoughts racing through your mind. For some, it’s easier said than done, and if you find that you can’t see that light no matter how hard your try, then you must seek appropriate help.

As soon-to-be doctors, we’re going to be responsible for the lives of patients whilst also juggling many other roles. It sounds scary, but by employing these simple actions, you’ll hopefully be able to avoid some sticky situations and instead create positive experiences and relationships. Because even the little things can go a long way.

Smiling Mind? What is this App?

Food For Thought, Technology

Smiling Mind is a unique web and App-based program developed by a team of psychologists with expertise in youth and adolescent therapy, Mindfulness Meditation and web-based wellness programs. Smiling Mind is a non-for-profit, free tool that will assist in improving to the lives of young Australians by providing clarity, calmness, contentment and balance. It is available online or as a smartphone app.

For more information see: http://smilingmind.com.au/blog/#!/category/background/what-is-smiling-mind

Why don’t doctors talk about their mental health?

Being A Doctor, Food For Thought, Mental Health

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/may/16/why-doctors-hide-their-own-illnesses

A recent article in the Guardian really highlights the importance of mental health in the medical health profession. Why don’t doctors seek out help when they know too well the signs of mental health issues? Why don’t we try to help ourselves even though we are helping others?

Have a read through this article if you haven’t had the chance – it’ll get you thinking.

Exploring Vulnerability

Food For Thought, Mental Health

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” – Brené Brown

Here is some food for thought by an amazing TedTalk – we can all learn something from this:

  1. Connection is why we are here
  2. Shame is the fear of disconnection: “Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? I’m not __________ enough”
  3. Vulnerability is the idea that in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen
  4. Whole-hearted people, living from a deep sense of worthiness have:
  • courage to be imperfect (to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart) – fully embrace vulnerability
  • compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly
  • connection – the thing that gives purpose and meaning to our lives