Medical student Dan tells us more about what he learned as one of the founding members of a peer-support group for mental health.
Dan didn’t always feel well equipped to support his friends when they were experiencing poor mental health, so when the opportunity to turn a group project into an established peer-support group emerged, he knew he had to get involved.
Dan tells us how being a part of WellMed has benefitted him and others.
“WellMed is the only peer-support group for mental health targeted to people in medical school and studying other allied health courses. We wanted to fill a gap in mental health support for students. Our aim was to set up a support network to engage students in the conversation around mental health.
“I’m one of the original founding members. I wanted to get involved to further my own understanding of mental health issues after being in situations with friends of mine where I wasn’t able to be the best friend possible because I didn’t understand their mind-set fully.
I’ve never seen such open, thought-provoking conversations about mental health from such a wide range of people with different expertise anywhere else.
Bringing mental health out of the shadows
“I’ve been involved in many activities, including putting on lectures and setting up a wellbeing space in the Old Medical School. The highlight has to be the “Blether at Black Medicine” events we co-host. This event epitomises what WellMed wanted to achieve by bringing mental health out of the shadows.
“At each of these events there’s a different theme. We have speakers from a range of backgrounds, including clinicians, but a big part of the night is chatting to friends and giving people a reason to leave their flat. I've never seen such open though-provoking conversations about mental health from such a wide range of people with different expertise anywhere else. What’s particularly useful is having clinicians talk about mental health once you start working because that tends to alleviate some people’s fears.
Making life better
“We ran an online wellbeing course during the pandemic that was very popular. From 250 responses, about 83% of the students who were involved felt an increased sense of belonging within the medical school community. 86% felt supported in their mental health and 64% had increased social and academic confidence. I don’t think it can be understated how incredibly proud it makes me to think WellMed helped even one person, but to think this many people benefitted from our course, and that many more could in the future, is just fantastic.
“WellMed has been such an enjoyable project to be a part of. I’ve learned so much already from this group and its members. Medicine has changed recently with an increased focus on assessing the mental health impact of disease and of treatment options. I think WellMed has shown me the personal, on-the-ground side of mental health, the sub-clinical entity that is “bad mental health” and how to better understand and support people in their lives. I feel much better prepared to have these conversations with patients and to do my best to leave them in the best physical and mental shape possible because one without the other really does limit the ability to enjoy your life. After all, that is ultimately what I want for my patients, the longest, best-quality life they can have.”
I draw inspiration from multiple sources. Working with patients exposes you to so many inspirational people and stories and you get to see the strength of some of these people at some of the lowest points in their lives. Being at university means you meet people on a daily basis who are so driven and focussed that it inspires you to improve yourself. It’s easy to look at historical or famous figures and be inspired but, for me, I think it’s the people you meet and the experiences you have that truly inspire you to go on so you can experience more, meet more people and get the most out of life.
Dan is a fith-year medical student at the University of Edinburgh and is co-founder and Lead Treasurer at WellMed.
How WellMed was funded
WellMed received a Student Experience Grant of £2,568, which helped improve the group’s visibility and accessibility online.