Depressed Medical Students' Use Of Mental Health Services And Barriers to Use

Early detection and treatment of depression may help prevent the unnecessary deaths of medical students and prevent the impairment of future physicians.

Depression is an underrecognized yet common and treatable disorder among medical students. Little is known about the rate of mental health service use by depressed medical students. This study sought to determine the level of mental health service use by depressed medical students and their reported barriers to use.

These data from the journal titled as “Depressed Medical Students’ Use of Mental Health Services and Barriers to Use” demonstrate that depression among medical students may be undertreated. Medical schools can assist depressed students by addressing issues such as the stigma of using mental health services, confidentiality, and documentation. Early treatment of impaired future caregivers may have far-reaching implications for the individual students, their colleagues, and their future patients.

Barriers to Use of Mental Health Services reported by medical students were:

*Lack of time

*Lack of confidentiality

*Concern that ‘‘No one will be able to understand my problems’’

*Stigma of mental health care

*Feeling that ‘‘My problems are not important’’


*Fear of unwanted intervention

*Feeling that ‘‘Using services will mean that I am weak’’

*Fear of documentation on academic record

*Difficulty with access to care

*Lack of availability of services

*Concern about lack of sensitivity to cultural issues

*Concern about lack of sensitivity to sexual identity issues

According to National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association domains, above mentioned barriers can be categorized as follows:


Lack of time ‘‘No one will understand my problems’’, Stigma of using mental health services ‘‘My problems are not important.’’ , ‘‘Seeking help is a sign of weakness.”


Lack of confidentiality , Cost, Fear of unwanted intervention, Fear of documentation, Difficult access to care, Lack of availability of services


Lack of cultural sensitivity, Lack of sensitivity to sexual identity issues, Providers will use meds before psychotherapy.

So, What was the result?

Twenty-four percent (24%) of the medical students were depressed by BDI criteria.

Of the depressed students, only 22% were using mental health counseling services.

The most frequently cited barriers to using these services were lack of time (48%), lack of confidentiality (37%), stigma associated with using mental health services (30%), cost (28%), fear of documentation on academic record (24%), and fear of unwanted intervention (26%).