By Dr. Suhair Bandeali
“It’s a culture that implies you should strive to be perfect even though you’re human – one that encourages you to run from your feelings even though you can’t hide from them”. – Brian Goldman address to University of Toronto graduating medical school class of 2014
A profession that exists for the sole purpose to improve the human condition and alleviate suffering, inside it is a culture of just that: suffering. We expect constant perfection, achievement, and “resilience”, but what about our compassion for each other through long hours and criticism, our understanding that we are also humans who make mistakes, and our basic human needs of food, water and sleep? It is often lost among the need to be perfect, to not show weakness, to be better, always better.
There have been numerous publications on the “numbers” of physician burnout, suicide, depression, but we aren’t doing anything to change the culture of our profession. It isn’t healthy, and we don’t talk about it. Why? Fear of career implications, responses from our peers, and being perceived as overreacting to trivial illness are just a few of the many reasons why we continue to work, live, and suffer in silence.
‘Our Stories’ is an annual event created by medical students at the University of Ottawa in 2016 to promote a culture of openness and dialogue amongst trainees and end the stigma of mental health and burnout in medicine. It is currently an annual off-site event for medical students at University of Ottawa. Medical students read their own or anonymously submitted stories of personal lived experiences with mental illness and burnout, in a non-threatening and open environment, led by trainees, for trainees.
Our Stories was brought to resident physicians in March 2019 at University of Calgary, McMaster University and Queens University. For its pilot event, 60 resident physicians participated across the three schools. The goal is to expand Our Stories to be an annual national event in residency programs across Canada. It will be a forum for residents to share their lived experiences with mental illness and burnout and will hopefully be a spark to create dialogue and capacity for change; if we don’t talk about it, we can’t do anything about it.
Let’s turn the awareness into change. Let’s share our stories and #SilenceTheStigma.
The original creators of ‘Our Stories’:
Dr. Bridget McDonald
Dr. Emilie Deschner
Dr. Shale Farber
Dr. Itai Malkin
Dr. Nicholas Timmerman
Resident Physician Leads 2019:
Dr. Kristin Ambacher (University of Calgary)
Dr. Alistair McDonald (Queen’s University)
Dr. Kelsi Cole (McMaster University)
Dr. Suhair Bandeali (University of Calgary)
Dr. Suhair Bandeali is a PGY 2 in Internal Medicine at the U of C.