On September 18, 2019, the first National Conference on Medical Student Mental Health and Well-Being was hosted by Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, providing education on the rising rates of psychological distress among US medical students. The symposium was sponsored in partnership with the Association of American Medical Colleges, Associated Medical Schools of New York, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
During the symposium, leading mental health researchers and clinicians provided updated findings on mental health in medical students. In addition, medical students and stakeholders had a platform “to de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health.” Being the first symposium of its type in the country, the conference provided a “safe space” for direct conversations regarding changes in the medical school climate needed to support the mental health of current students.
“This is a major shift in the way we address the topic,” said Lisa M. Meeks, PhD, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, in a press release. “Bringing the researchers and educators together allows for the development of new ideas and potential solutions.”
Suicide prevention, a particularly sensitive topic on medical school campuses, was an important point of the discussion that was addressed in a dedicated session during the symposium. Speakers indicated that suicide is a public health issue that requires a comprehensive approach to prevention, especially among a population such as medical students.
Digital cognitive behavioral therapy applications, which have been designed for teenagers and young adults to address anxiety and depression, were introduced during another session. Because of the rising rates of anxiety and depression across students of all disciplines nationwide, interest in this technology is at an all-time high. In fact, approximately 60% of people between the ages of 14 and 22 years have downloaded mobile applications to address mental health issues, according to the session’s speaker. Retaining young users, however, remains a challenge.
Another session provided a call for school administrators to improve their processes for identifying and managing mental illness among medical students. More mental health resources for medical students was also emphasized heavily during the conference. “Students should not feel inhibited about reaching out,” said Barbara Hempstead, MD, dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, in a press release. “Medical students and graduate students, we are here to help.”
Weill Cornell Medicine Hosts First-Ever National Conference on Medical Student Mental Health. Weill Cornell Medicine. https://news.weill.cornell.edu/news/2019/09/weill-cornell-medicine-hosts-first-ever-national-conference-on-medical-student-mental. September 27, 2019. Accessed October 13, 2019.