A community of caring at OSU
Student Pharmacist Magazine: Mental Health
Exams, stress, caffeine, work schedule, IPPE hours, more caffeine, junk food, relationships … wait, what’s a relationship?
Unfortunately for many student pharmacists, achieving a work–life balance can be a big challenge. As a consequence of having an overloaded schedule with plenty of stress that comes with being in a professional program, students’ well-being may become compromised and unhealthy habits can arise. Students may feel the need to make a good impression and not admit when they are struggling, especially in a high-achieving environment such as pharmacy school.
After listening to stories from our classmates, combined with our own personal experiences and adversities, a group of student pharmacists at The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Pharmacy came together to raise awareness about a problem that was not talked about at our institution—mental health.
Counseling for student pharmacists
We were inspired by the thought, “How are we supposed to take care of patients when we can’t even take care of ourselves?” Our intent was to advocate for the implementation of counseling services and mental health awareness programs specifically for student pharmacists. We knew this could be done because the Colleges of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at OSU already have personal counselors available specifically for their student populations.
We started our campaign by collecting data. We sent out a modified version of the mental health and well-being survey that was used by the College of Medicine. The anonymous results showed us that student pharmacists needed help.
The survey illustrated several mental health challenges including stress, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, feeling unsatisfied with chosen career, deteriorating personal relationships, and trouble managing internships with school. Most disturbingly, we had one respondent indicate “most or all of the time” to the prompts “thoughts to take own life,” “planned ways to take own life,” and “done things to hurt yourself.” At the conclusion of this survey, a personal counselor from the College of Medicine held a session for student pharmacists where they could discuss their thoughts about student mental health.
The survey results and opinions voiced during the counseling session were presented to faculty with the hope that they would see the need for changes within our college to address the mental wellness of the students. Our efforts were not in vain, and as a result of our work, the college of pharmacy is planning to hire two part-time counselors to be shared with other professional schools at OSU.
Although we had accomplished our main goal of acquiring counselors for the college, we did not stop there. Throughout the 2014–15 school year, we hosted two REACH suicide prevention training sessions led by the OSU Suicide Prevention Program. More than 110 students, faculty, and staff attended these sessions, in which participants learned how to REACH: Recognize the warning signs (of suicide), Engage with empathy, Ask directly about suicide, Communicate hope, and Help suicidal individuals to access care and treatment.
The OSU Suicide Prevention Program also offers an anonymous mental health and wellness survey called “RUOK? Buckeyes” for graduate and professional colleges to enroll in. The RUOK? Buckeyes survey is OSU’s version of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Interactive Screening Program for stress and depression. Students in participating colleges are invited to complete the survey through a secure online website using a unique username and password that cannot be traced back to the student. Within 48 hours of completing the survey, a university counselor replies to the student, regardless of the results.
From there, the student can communicate with the counselor anonymously through the website, or they can choose to meet in person. The college of pharmacy is now enrolled in the RUOK? Buckeyes survey thanks to our efforts to bring the college and the OSU Suicide Prevention Program together.
Continuing the conversation
We are proud of the impact we have made and excited to continue the conversation about mental health and wellness with student pharmacists to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. It is our hope these efforts will foster a community of caring and provide future students with a happier and healthier experience in pharmacy school. We also hope that other professional schools examine their learning environments to assess student need and access to mental health services.