Breaking News

The mental health of a Nigerian Medical Student

I was at Hiv Clinic one rainy Thursday morning. Dr. Aigbe said, "being a medical student is a risk factor for Psychosis." Psychosis is a form/class of mental illness. In plain terms, medical students are liable to going crazy, losing their minds. It wasn't shocking to me at all. It was something i had always known. When i was in my 4th year, i read that the rate of depression and suicides among medical students and residents was steadily increasing. So you see, i wasn't surprised.
    I believe you must have come across this picture where Havard compiled a list of the hardest courses in the world. Architecture came 1st and Medicine? Medicine came 9th! I was stunned not only because it was evidence by which my brother could win our age-long argument; but also because i didn't believe it. So i drew a conclusion, maybe they don't know what it's like here in Nigeria.
   Life as a medical student is hard. Life as a Nigerian is equally difficult. Now imagine life as a medical student in Nigeria! It is extra hard.
   Trust me, if a poll is taken and you ask med students, say from 4th year upward if they would either;
1. Study medicine in their next life or
2. Transfer out of medicine to another department, if they could.
   You'll get a No for question 1 and a yes for 2 in about 55-65% persons if not more. Except for those ones who intend to use their profession for the good of the community.
   So you're probably wondering, what exactly threatens our mental health?

The reason i had always argued with my brother on the difficulty of Archi over Med was that Medicine is probably the only course that fucks with your emotions.

In a class in my 4th year, the lecturer said, "there is no syllabus in medicine; the full textbook, from cover to cover is the syllabus." You prolly think i'm talking about a 500 paged textbook right? Wrong! I'm talking about a long 1000+ textbook and that's just book 1. Imagine preparing for exams with the knowledge of what you have to know before the exams. That just kills you before the exam does. A month to my part 2 mbbs mock, i made a mental list of everything i didn't know. I cried so much cos i didn't believe i could meet up. That's just one exam. I have to write 4 of those before i can take the Hippocratic oath. Are you starting to get it?
         THE INSULTS?
It's part of the training; we all went through it. That's the comfort we get. For some weird reason, they think that demoralizing a person emotionally is a good way to learn. I have had encounters that have almost pushed
 me to tears; stopped only by the fact that it will be worse if i cried. I dont know about other people, but i dont learn that way.
          NO BREAK!!
Do you know a medical student never gets a break? You know how other students go home after a semester ends? We dont have semesters and we dont get to go home. Not officially anyway. All we ever get is public holidays and carefully planned/schemed breaks. So the stress that nearly breaks our backs is all year long. There was a year we were even expected to resume on the 2nd of January. The year had barely even started.
   So we have it; even when we're choked with stress you cant catch a break. Sucks doesn't it?

    The only legit reason that you're permitted for missing school or not making attendance is if you died. So you could have lost a family member or a close friend; had an accident or been sick and nearly died; yet, it just might not be enough to get you a pardon.
   You could be losing your mind slowly everyday, struggling to live through each day; and they'll still expect you to be present.


   There should be an anti-bullying movement for medical students. Everybody! Every damn body, wants to show you how much you don't know. From the consultants to the registrars, the house-officers, your senior colleagues and sometimes even your class mates. It's depressing to hear things like, " I did Pharmacology almost 20 years ago and i can still remember; didn't you guys just leave 400 level?"
   Or 27 hours to a test and then you hear your classmates moving a topic you've never heard before or revising a material you've never seen in your life!

     We all see them. Our mates from other departments; some we even started before them. We see how far they've gone. Graduated or working or married or getting rich. While we have to endure another month of clerking, ward rounds and insults. And its not like there's much to look forward to. I feel sad just writing about it.

   All of this would have been slightly tolerable if there was something great to look forward to. Back then, we were told of the riches that await a medical doctor; the joys of never having to labour for a job. That's all bs now. Trust and believe me, no amount of money is worth the amount of stress doctors have to go through.
   Is it sleeping in the hospital at least 3 times a week in the name of call? Or coming to morning review with absolutely insufficient sleep only to get painfully schooled by every senior person present.
   HouseJob nko? It's actually just a glorified name for houseboy/housegirl. The labour is intense. So much work. Little manpower! To get a space for housemanship sef is another wahala.
      How i'm i supposed to know all of these and still be hopeful?

      The painful truth is i can't tell you anyway to stop these maddening processes cos even if we stage a protest, it's all going to come down to the fact that, Every senior person you come across has had to go through this. So what makes you different? Sometimes i think, Medicine is hard enough! Why do people seek ways to make it even harder? Thats a rhetorical question.
    What i will tell you though is how to survive. How to not lose it before you get out!

- Take breaks...
      Even if it's for just one day in a week. Take a break from everything school-related. E.g when i was doing my Paed-O&G junior posting, i never used to read on Fridays, it was my off day.

- Have fun&Be playful...

    Damn you've got 7 years of reading to do. You might as well have fun while you do it!
      In The Doctors, a show on Mnet, it was said that playing actually helps to prolong life. Don't take life too seriously. Make jokes. Take jokes. Be around people that play a lot. Laugh a lot too...

-  Don't compare yourself to anybody...
    Never let your urge to read for 5 hours be because you saw someone doing so. Read when you want to, for as long as you can. You'll assimilate better sef.
   I believe a daily proper 2-hour read will see you through just as much as someone's 6 hour read.
   Prof. Odike told us of how he followed his classmates and read all night before an exam. He was unco-ordinated and sleepy during the entire exam. After the exam, he went to sleep and prep for the resit.
No do pass yourself!!

- Join an association...
   This is weird coming from me but it helps, believe me. Something unrelated to school. So whether its a book club or Cmda/Fecamds or Rotaract or whatever. Just be a part of something.

- Create your own future...
   Yes we know it looks bleak but for your health sake, think of a bright future. Think of the time when you're standing between a person and the white light. Let that drive you...
  If nothing, think of when you finally become a consultant and you can do whatever you like. Bad drive but it's a drive all the same.

I could go on and on but the truth is, you can't afford to give up now. The finish line is really close. Think of how far you've come, how many tests and exams you've aced even when you were not 'prepared'.
  You did not come this far to just come this far. Find what gives you strength and hope, and draw inspiration from it.
 Like my classRep will say, We propel against all odds.


  1. Someone should send this link to some Regs and consultants. Anonymously of course. :-)

  2. This is best post have read in a long time about things concerning medical students. Thanks Sharon and Jonathan