Medical Schools’ Best Kept Secret

10710662_10203018346840922_1261285847953338841_nSarah Laurie, 3rd-year medic, reflects on her personal experiences of mental health education and support. 

Mental health problems amongst medical students are common – this should come as no surprise. Amidst 100 highly intelligent members of the general public, one would expect to find approximately 20 with a mental illness. And yet, I am willing to bet that for every student who has ‘gone public’ about having a mental health condition, there are a handful who are struggling alone.

The mental health education in my school was shockingly poor and misinformed. After 14 years of compulsory PSHE lessons learning about things like periods, smoking, and abstinence, I cannot recall a single lesson in which obsessive-compulsive disorder was properly explained to me. During our teenage years, we have to balance a heavy workload and simultaneously navigate the emotional minefield of sexuality, health, goals, and aspirations – it is no wonder that 50% of mental illnesses manifest by the age of 14 [1]. So why does the government see no reason to educate us on the matter? If somebody told me that panic attacks weren’t normal reactions to sitting my GCSEs, or that sobbing into a mirror for hours at a time wasn’t just “being a teenage girl”, I may not have had to spend the majority of my teenage years struggling with mental illness.

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Work Hard, Work Harder

10420241_1531768717068311_7208292879445469926_nThird year, Heather Kirkland, investigates the feasibility of working a part-time job while studying for a medical degree and reflects on her personal experiences.



I speak from experience when I say it’s tough to have a job during term time. I also speak from experience when I talk about how expensive it is to live in St Andrews. I am lucky enough to have the help of my parents to fund me, and the government paying my fees – woohoo Scotland! However, I really do feel for anyone who just can’t make ends meet without working part-time while studying medicine.

stress-7Last semester I worked in a bar and I frequently wouldn’t finish until 3 or 4 am. Towards exam time it was just unbearable: I was stressed, tired and, if you ask my flat mates, extremely grumpy. I was lucky enough to still pass my exams, even if the grade did drop as a consequence. I just don’t know how others are able to work, study, pass exams, have a social life and not bite anyone’s head off!

My brain was never fully in either game. I found myself thinking about my upcoming shift in lectures and about stuff I should be revising while pulling pints. It was also so hard to sell cigars and cigarettes to customers without rhyming off the potential damage they were doing to their health. Continue reading “Work Hard, Work Harder”

To Sleep or Not to Sleep? (Answer = Sleep)

Third year, Sarah Levy, looks at the medical effects of sleep deprivation and its prevalence in the UK.

Being the fact-cramming, society-juggling, library-living, pub-frequenting multitaskers that they are, it is hardly surprising that medical students often have to sacrifice something in order to maintain at least half-decent grades and some semblance of a social life. For many, a decent night’s sleep is the first luxury to be lost. Although sleep deprivation is particularly common among medical students, for whom a work-life balance can be hard to achieve, it is most certainly not restricted to those in the medical profession. Indeed, a recent study carried out by the UK Sleep Council aptly entitled the “Great British Bedtime Report” found that 33% of the population sleep five to six hours a night, with 70% sleeping for seven hours or less. In addition, of those participating in the study, 27% described their sleep as being of “poor quality” on a regular basis[1].

But How Much Do I Need?

Although scientists have generally concluded that there is no official optimal amount of sleep, with values depending on age, genetic factors, activity levels etc., it is generally concluded that most adults function at their best on 7-8 hours of sleep a night. A study investigating the link between sleep amount and sickness absence in 3760 individuals concluded that the optimum was 7.8 hours for adult men and 7.6 hours for adult women[2]. Worryingly, less than a quarter of adults questioned by the UK Sleep Council regularly sleep this amount. A variety of factors have likely resulted in this, including heavy work pressure, depression, insomnia and other conditions that make sleep difficult. 47% of those questioned said that they found themselves lying awake at night preoccupied by stress and worry[1].

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Coming to terms

Jasmine Latter, first-year, asks Professor Guild and Patrick O’Hare for their views on semester reform. *Thechanges described below are now in place.

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 8.45.16 PMWith the university introducing changes to the academic year, many students are concerned about the impact this could have on their social and educational experience at university. The loss of reading week will be the greatest concern to many, but with everyone in the same boat, and the advantage of a longer Christmas holiday the changes may have a silver lining.

The following interviews will hopefully shed some light on what the reform will involve and how it could affect students.

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Sleep your way to a first

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 11.49.50 AM

 Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 11.46.07 AMSimon Friderichs, first-year, drifts through the murky universe of sleep physiology. 

The scene is set. It’s Thursday afternoon after a marathon of a morning filled with lectures on cranial osteology and acute neuralgia. Revision is required. Paper out, pen gripped, poised to tackle Parkin’s “shopping lists” of anatomy from the night before until a familiar wave of exhaustion piles on. Like any other diligent medical student this has no immediate consequence. However as time carries on, your notes begin to become less legible and symptoms of fatigue take hold. Resonating yawns, tearing eyes, and an overall lack of gumption become common symptoms. There is no time for a tempting nap as the entire weeks lectures stare up from the desk simply begging for attention. Such is the dilemma a medical student often faces… to nap or not to nap… that is the question.

Continue reading “Sleep your way to a first”