The Mind Us Project
The Mind us Project is a 12-month development programme for Black African and Caribbean final year medical students, which focuses on educational advancement and wellbeing support. Final year medical students enrolled onto this programme will receive mentorship, medical education, and virtual learning sessions. We wanted to develop a project that focused on nurturing student educational enhancement as well as resilience and wellbeing, in order to make the transition from medical school to being a junior doctor as smooth as possible.
This Nurture Your Wellbeing blog series will run in tandem with the Mind Us Project, providing a safe space for us all to reflect on the importance of our mental wellbeing through these unsettling times. It is our hope that we can all gain strength, resilience, and the knowledge of how to nurture our well-being through innovative projects like Mind Us, and the power of reflection.
The Power of Reflection: Why is the Mind Us Project so Vital?
2020. It has been a tumultuous year encapsulated by that virus, the re-awakening of the BLM movement and social activists aiming to tackle the systemic racism encroached in our society. We have all been given the opportunity to reflect on what truly matters to us – and how to protect the things that mean the most to us.
A recent Melanin Medics survey exploring the wellbeing of 152 Black African and Caribbean medical students revealed 89% of respondents felt COVID-19 had impacted their wellbeing, with 60% expressing concerns that COVID-19 would affect their career progression.(1)
With further worrying evidence of a wide disparity in deaths from COVID-19 amongst BAME people compared to their white counterparts, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) created a series of immediate steps that can be implemented as risk mitigation for BAME staff – identifying health and wellbeing support as a priority (See Figure 1).(2)
Figure 1: Risk Mitigation for BAME Staff. This multifaceted plan created by the Royal College of Psychiatry identifies health and wellbeing support as a priority for risk mitigation.(2)
With this in mind, we direct this question to all Black and Caribbean prospective medical students, current medical students, and current workforce, and challenge you to consider:
What does mental wellbeing mean to YOU? Take 60 seconds to reflect on what the word ‘wellbeing’ means to why and why it resonates with you. Is it reconnecting with an old friend? Talking to family members? Getting your 60 minutes of exercise every day?
Now ask yourself, why did you decide to study Medicine? For a love of humanity and patient care I hear you say? Remind yourself, a love of humanity also requires you to love and look after yourself, as well as others.
What is Wellbeing?
Mental wellbeing is defined as “The state of being comfortable, healthy or happy” relating to both physical, emotional, financial, social, occupational, spiritual, intellectual, and environmental wellbeing.(3)
Some research has also found the role of race plays a fundamental part of an individual’s perception of themselves and how racial identity and psychological distress are categorically linked, especially with respect to high-achieving young adults such as medical students and doctors.(4)
All of this sounds like a lot to be having under control, right? Well, we would like to help you in your pursuit of mental wellbeing.
How to Nurture Your Wellbeing: Advice and Tips
1. Connect with others. As a busy medical student or doctor who is constantly working, it may be difficult to find the time to connect with your loved ones, but good relationships are so vital to our mental wellbeing. Remember, you are your most valued investment so always take the time to connect with those close to you.
2. Be physically active. Exercise helps to improve overall mood and cognition, if done regularly. FUN FACT: Exercise also increases the serotonin levels and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNP) levels in the brain which help to regulate your mood.
3. Practice Mindfulness. Is your phone always pinging with notifications either from work, university, or social media? Are you constantly checking your emails, creating revision quizzes on quizlet, or completing practice exam Q’s on PassMed? If the answer is yes, take the time to engage in mindful activities to help you become astutely aware of your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. Check out Headspace, an app for meditation and mindfulness.
4. Give to Others. Helping others, talking, and relating to others allows us to feel supported and connected within our own lives. Remember, as well as looking after our own mental wellbeing, it is vital to protect the wellbeing of others.
5. Learn New Skills. We all remain dedicated to our current and future patients and this inspires us all to continue studying. But remember, we all need a life outside of Medicine. Are there hobbies you used to enjoy that you no longer do? Try practicing these skills, old and new. You might just find they’re good for the soul.
Remember, achieving mental wellbeing is a lifelong pursuit. We may all find ourselves struggling from time to time and it’s important to be self-aware and recognise when you’re struggling.
Helpful Toolkit: - What to Do When You’re Struggling
- Talk to a friend, partner, family member. Sometimes, it’s difficult to find the words when you’re struggling, therefore journaling, or keeping a diary can be helpful. Remember you’re not alone and there’s always someone who cares about you who wants to help!
-Reflect: why are you feeling like you do? Has there been a stressful event? Have you been overworking, or are you experiencing burnout? As medics who lead very busy lives, we often overlook the importance of eating enough, maintaining a regular sleep pattern and scheduling time for relaxation. Try to schedule time to relax, just like you would for study/work time.
-Struggling and feeling like it’s affecting your work/study life? Talk to your GP. They may be able to help, sometimes simple chat with someone who isn’t an immediate family member/friend can provide perspective on a situation.
-There are a range of accredited psychological therapies available on the NHS. Remember, doctors don’t have superpowers; we can become ill just like everyone else. It is vital to protect your mental wellbeing with the same tenacity as your physical wellbeing.
Right in this moment, we’d like you to reflect on what short-term AND long-term goals you can aim towards to improve your mental wellbeing throughout the mental ramifications of COVID-19.
We’ll leave you with this quote:
“Trust who and what you are, and the universe will support you in miraculous ways”.(5)
Until next time,
Written by Nina Sowemimo, 4th Year Medical Student, University of Leeds
1. 2020. Melanin Medics. https://www.melaninmedics.com/mind-us-project
2. Royal College of Psychiatrists. COVID-19 Guidance on Risk Mitigation for BAME Staff in Mental Healthcare Settings. https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/about-us/responding-to-covid-19/responding-to-covid-19-guidance-for-clinicians/risk-mitigation-for-bame-staff
3. Oxford English Dictionary 2020.
4. Hardeman RR, Perry SP, Phelan, SM, Przedworski JM, Burgess DJ, Ryn MV. Racial Identity and Mental Well-Being: The Experience of African American Medical Students, A Report from the Medical Student CHANGE Study. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. 2016. 3(2), 250-258.
5. 2020. Alan Cohen. https://quotefancy.com/quote/761108/Alan-Cohen-Trust-who-and-what-you-are-and-the-universe-will-support-you-in-miraculous