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Introduction

  1. 1. This guidance has been produced jointly by the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Medical Schools Council. It is designed to help medical schools support students who have mental health conditions. It gives examples of good practice and advice for medical schools on how to provide the best possible help to students. It is designed to be flexible, so that medical schools can improve their existing processes rather than having to make radical changes.
  2. 2. Studying medicine at university is an intense experience and the course is a demanding one. It is natural that, at times, students feel stressed or occasionally overwhelmed by the pressure of exams or the experience of observing very sick patients for the first time. This guidance looks at how medical schools can support students with mental health conditions, and what medical schools can do to promote good mental health and well-being in their students.
  3. 3. In society, and the medical profession in particular, there are still lots of misconceptions about mental health. Medical students are often reluctant to ask or help – we believe this has to change. As a profession, doctors and medical schools need to de-stigmatise mental illness and we all need to be more open about the issue. The GMC also has its part to play. We need to be clear to the profession that having a mental health condition does not necessarily mean that a doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired. If a doctor recognises that they have a problem, has an understanding of their condition and asks for help, then in most cases we will not get involved. This applies equally to medical students throughout their training, including their postgraduate training.
  4. 4. The mental health of medical students has been widely discussed over the past few years. The findings of several studies have raised concerns about the prevalence of some mental health conditions in medical students.* Medical schools report that one of the most complex situations they face is when a student has a mental health condition and is struggling with the course.
  5. 5. Medical students are the doctors of tomorrow and it is important they are given the right support at this early stage in their training. We believe this guidance will benefit future doctors and their patients.
  6. 6. Thank you to the individuals and organisations who helped us produce this guidance – we hope it will be a useful resource for medical schools, students and all those involved in medical education and training. In particular, we thank the members of the group who oversaw the development of this guidance for providing their insights and expertise.
  7. 7. Throughout this guidance, we use the terms ‘must’ and ‘should’ in the following ways.
  • ‘Must’ is used for an overriding duty or principle.
  • ‘Should’ is used when we are providing an explanation of how a medical school can meet the overriding duty.
  • ‘Should’ is also used where the duty or principle will not apply in all situations or circumstances, or where there are factors that are outside the control of the medical school or that affect whether a medical school can follow the guidance.

Footnote

* Dyrbye LN, Thomas MR, Shanafelt TD (2006) Systematic review of depression, anxiety, and other indicators of psychological distress among U.S. and Canadian medical students Acad Med 81(4): 354–73.