On watch

Like the Medicine Class of 2017 before them, the Medicine Class of 2018 has embraced Wellness as a cause, dedicating their senior class gift to expanded Sentinel suicide prevention training for undergraduate medical students.

These one-day workshops—offered by the Medical Student Wellness Committee with the support of the Faculty’s WELL Office in collaboration with Suicide Action Montreal—teach students how to detect and act on signs of suicidal distress in their peers.

Pictured: Mame Daro Faye and Mary Koziol, both MDCM’18.

According to the Class’ Seeds of Change crowdfunding page, multiple studies have shown that medical training can be a peak time for psychological distress, with depression and burnout occurring in medical students at a higher rate than for their peers in the general population

As it is, demand for the workshop outstrips supply. This campaign, which aims to raise $5,000, will create 16 new spots—enough to satisfy current demand and eliminate the waiting list.

The senior class gift is a tradition whereby Med-4 students make their first collective philanthropic gift to the Faculty to support a project that is important to them, and that has a tangible impact on current and future students. It begins their legacy at the University.

During a lunchtime gathering to celebrate the campaign and to collect donations, students voiced their enthusiasm for this year’s project choice.

Pascal Chavannes was a psychologist before he enrolled in the MDCM program. He says those studying and practising medicine too often fail to see the warning signs in themselves. “We’re people who don’t think we’re at risk.” He says this kind of program helps people to look out for each other and get over the stigma of mental illness. “It’s trying to create networks where we can help each other—and to not see this as weakness.”

Classmate Doulia Hamad brings her experience in suicide prevention to the table for this campaign. She worked as a Suicide Action Montreal crisis counsellor for six years. The Sentinel program identifies language that can be an indicator of suicidal thinking. She gives some examples: “They’re not able to talk about the future or they say ‘What does it matter? I may not be there then,’ or ‘I wish I wasn’t here.’”

Students learn how to approach a distressed peer so that they can then refer them to the WELL Office or to other support services in the community. “The idea is to not intervene but to be able to recognize when someone is suffering,” says class member Nicola Smith.

VP-Dean David Eidelman, MDCM’79, and Beth-Ann Cummings, MDCM’03, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Medical Education, have donated $2,000 and $1,000, respectively, to this campaign, bringing the $5,000 goal well within reach.

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