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Community & Social Responsibility

Faculty of Medicine, WSU research activities

Dr Padmini

The last cohort of MBBS degree 2020, 4th-year medical students Faculty of Medicine, Western Sydney University (WSU), conducted their Community Research Program with the supervisor Dr Padmini Howpage.

The study consisted of socio-economic variables and suicidal tendencies among the patient cohort living in North Western suburbs of Sydney. The research outcomes helped a broader understanding of mental health concerns in local settings, according to demographics. In addition, the results informed the service providers to streamline referral pathways aimed at early intervention and relapse prevention through GP upskilling about mental health issues.

MD students Neha Gupta and Amy Yan, conducting the rTMS research study at Mind Connections Specialist Health Services.

The study consisted of socio-economic variables and suicidal tendencies among the patient cohort living in North Western suburbs of Sydney. The research outcomes helped a broader understanding of mental health concerns in local settings, according to demographics. In addition, the results informed the service providers to streamline referral pathways aimed at early intervention and relapse prevention through GP upskilling about mental health issues.

Annual award for Mental Health

Drs. Daya and Padmini Howpage established the annual mental health award in 2017, themed ‘Elephant in my room that I did not see.’

Since 2017, 2nd-year medical students explore the themes related to their mental health as a part of the Doctor of Medicine (previously MBBS degree) curriculum. Students’ creative pieces seek to depict personal understanding and experiences with mental illness, and the academic staff at the University selects the winners. The award encourages medical students to evaluate their mental health issues critically but in an insightful manner.

Much research has been published about doctors having higher suicide rates than the average population. There are many aetiological factors. Doctors work long hours, continually battle fatigue, and compromise their health as they struggle to juggle the responsibilities of clinical practice, post-graduate studies, and training needs that must be balanced with family and society. Drs. Daya and Padmini Howpage hope to encourage medical students to take control of their lives, seek help and care for their colleagues from the early days of their careers.

“Since we know that the system will not change the rules, we will have to change the system”. – Dr Martin Luther King Jr

 

Award winner year 2018
Inaugural award winner 2018 Nirodhi with Drs. Daya and Padmini Howpage

My Son Asclepius by Nirodhi

Lay a rose.
In this hateful stone garden of lost opportunities
death lingers where life will not follow
Like a petal falls unnoticed
final words and intentions are forgotten,
swept into the silence of time

you chose to sink with leaden feet
And diffuse back into the earth from which you came
These immortal stones tether a mere fraction of your fleeing soul
To be remembered
And then forgotten

The weight of living
Of carrying the facades of personality
A burden I would have shared
If you had just asked
Why could you not just be?

The stethoscope a noose around your neck
You became just as pale and grey
As those cadavers you’d pour over
More knowledge, more still and yet still not enough for you
In the final hours of darkness the hangman bides his time in the pages of your books

Pharmacology intoxicated you
Geriatrics aged you
Cardiology broke my heart
I watched as you withered
Unrecognisable as the fresh faced youth who began this journey

I did not know then

You lost one under the sterilised lights of an OR
And another
Still you said nothing
Buried deep in your own grey clouds

Did you believe yourself to be so invincible?
You are no god
But the same blood, flesh and bones as me
When did you become too old to hold my hand?
I would have pulled you from those turbulent waters

I could not hold you down and pinch your nose
As I had when you were a child
Yet it seemed that you were still playing at Kings and Queens
In your white gowned might
Stoic in the face of plebeian tragedy

You were slipping
Forgetting that the unflinching doctor you had become
Began as my baby
Frightened of needles
Cajoled by a kind heart and jelly beans

Your demons have disappeared
But by your own doing so too have you
They wander aimlessly with no soul to torture but mine
So now I lay a rose on a cold grave
And petals fall unnoticed

Medical Students Burden by Angela Lee

Award winner’s artwork year 2019
2019 winner – painting by Angela Lee

My creative piece seeks to depict my personal understanding and experiences with mental illness, whilst also hopefully allowing others some insight into what mental health for a medical student can feel like. It is apparent that the compromised well-being of medical students is a widespread issue, with more than four in 10 students likely to have a minor psychiatric disorder and one in five medical students having considered suicide in the past year. The salient feature of my painting is the doors looming over the protagonist. The use of negative space juxtaposed against the dark colour reflect the uncontrollable sense of doom those with mental illness often experience. Those experiencing depression and anxiety can often feel as though they are in a pit from which they cannot escape, and this sense of misery can manifest in the form of lethargy and tiredness, as exhibited by the body language of the protagonist. The doors in the picture portray the multitude of pathways, choices and doubts that are present in our minds. As a medical student, I feel as though I have been afforded a great opportunity to study a degree many are passionate about. However, with this opportunity I have developed numerous reservations towards my capabilities, the pathways I have chosen and doubts about my identity as a medical student. A constant nagging feeling of being “worse than others” is often present. Over time these doubts and worries can become overwhelming, a point I seek to emphasise through the overlapping vectors of the doors. The consuming nature of a mental illness is further elucidated through the dripping blackness surrounding the protagonist. The positioning of the window in the corner surrounded by locked doors and the use of light colours represent a sense of energy and happiness that feels impossible to obtain when going through periods of compromised mental well-being. Mental illness is still heavily stigmatized, with over 44% of doctors and medical students surveyed by beyond blue agreeing that experiencing depression or anxiety disorder is a sign of weakness and are less likely to appoint doctors with a history of medical illness1. The numerous eyes peering at the protagonist symbolises the judgment of others. This stigma prevalent in the medical community can make it difficult for medical students to admit any signs of psychiatric disorder and seek the relevant help. Destigmatizing mental illness, providing information and making the relevant resources accessible for those suspecting they may have mental illnesses is crucial for improving student well-being.

‘Cassie’ by Ling Peng (2021 winner)

[Verse 1] – When I was in my second year of med school
I stood amongst my peers at a funeral
And tears ran down my face when I saw our friend CassieI
thought of how she always seemed so free
And about all the signs that I didn’t see
Now I wander how many of us dream of never waking

[Bridge 1] – But how did we end up here?
Aren’t we supposed to be made of bulletproof
Glass that just doesn’t shatter
We’ve been taught that our stress doesn’t matter

[Chorus] – So let’s just talk
About that brave face
Insisting we’re fine as that warm summer’s dayI
guess I’d always thought
That the stress is common so it must be meant to be
And the truth is we shouldn’t pretend
Our poor mental health is just a normal thing

[Verse 2] – There’s a common idea in practice
Even dad said not to talk about my poor health
Said ‘it affects reputation and might ruin your future chances’

[Bridge 2] – But how did we end up here?
Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who understand
That your health’s important
And you need to ask for help even if you think you’ve somehow failed

[Chorus] – So let’s just talk
About that brave face
Insisting we’re fine as that warm summer’s day
I guess I’d always thought
That the stress is common so it must be meant to be
And the truth is we shouldn’t pretend
Our poor mental health is just a normal thing

[Verse 3] – Now I guess that we’re trying to fix this

To help ourselves when we’re standing on the brink
We’re taught of self-care and strategies to face our demons

[Bridge 3] – But how did we end up here?
Self-care just seems like a temporary
Gauze to hide the problem
Of med culture inherently fostering poor mental health

[Chorus] – So let’s just talk
About that brave face
Insisting we’re fine as that warm summer’s dayI
guess I’d always thought
That the stress is common so it must be meant to be
And the truth is we shouldn’t pretend
Our poor mental health is just a normal thing
[Verse 4] – I can’t help but wonder for Cassie?
And thinkif we were more open about our mental health?
That maybe in three years she’d be graduating with me
But the real issue’s even scarier

To fix a problem that you couldn’t see
A problem that involves an environment that breeds insanity

[Outro] – But howdid I end up here?
I wish that I was made of bulletproof glass
That doesn’t shatter
Because I’m sick of pretending
My stress doesn’t matter

So can we please just talk about the elephant in my room
Please can we talk about the elephant in my room
In my room

Western Sydney University

Mind Connections Specialist Health Services has a long-standing affiliation with Western Sydney University (WSU). Medical students enrolled in Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, Faculty of medicine, WSU attend clinical placements and conduct research under the supervision of our clinicians.

Mind Connections Foundation is focused on enhancing our community’s mental health and well-being by promoting awareness and evidence-based research.

Mind Connections Specialist Health Services are a proud partner of the Mind Connections Foundation.

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