Taking note of the recent spate of suicides at AIIMS, director Dr Randeep Guleria has acknowledged that the pandemic has taken a toll on the medical community. Addressing students through a webinar on Monday, he spoke about steps being taken by the institute for the wellbeing of students.
He also came out strongly against substance abuse which, he said, has been identified as one of the causes of mental health problems.
The country’s top medical institute has witnessed three suicides by two doctors and a student in the span of a month, most recently on August 16 when the decomposing body of Dr Mohit Singhla (40) was found at his South Delhi residence. In a purported suicide note, he said, ‘I couldn’t hide my mental state anymore’. Three suicides by patients were also reported on campus.
In a 13-minute address, Dr Guleria said: “The medical profession is very stressful. It’s mainly because as students and residents, you are responsible not just for your own well-being and of your family, but of patients as well. You see a lot of misery, pain and distress, which affects you, and that is a major cause of concern. Within your own life, at this young age, you face a lot of stress. The American Medical Students’ Association stated that the cycle of stress, anxiety and depression takes root during medical school since students lack time for sleep, healthy eating, regular exercise, and have a smaller support system. That is something we need to work on.”
Emphasising on a zero-tolerance policy against substance abuse, he said the administration will be keeping a close watch, and surprise checks will be carried out to ensure no outsiders are allowed entry into the institute. “Substance abuse has been identified as one of the causes of mental health problems; we need to have a holistic approach to address it. We will now take strict action if we find any student or other member indulging in this on campus. Rules already exist but these will be strengthened. A policy has been drafted, which will be shared later this week for comments,” he said.
“Physical safety measures to set up barricades, grills, CCTV cameras have already been initiated on a war footing…,” said Dr Guleria.
Last week, the Faculty Association of AIIMS wrote a letter to Dr Guleria raising concerns over recent suicides among undergraduate students. The letter said there is a “need to collectively think and work to provide an enabling environment for the students to prosper”.
“These measures are a small part of the whole solution. The solution lies within ourselves. We have to work to improve social interaction, prevent illness, identify those individuals who need help, and provide support in a very humane manner. Teamwork is important between students, residents, and administration, the wellness centre, the department of psychiatry,” he said.
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