The School of Medicine at Anglia Ruskin University has become the first of its kind to partner with Positive to help support its staff and students.
The psychological wellbeing of those within the medical profession is an area of great concern for many both in and out of the field. Research has shown that when medical students enter university, their mental health is no different from that of the rest of the population, and yet by the end of their first year it is significantly worse. The risk of suicide is higher in the medical industry than in many other professions, with the rate among female doctors above that of the general female population, and research has also shown that there is an overwhelming reluctance to seek help for mental distress. In a study of nearly 2,000 doctors at various stages of their career, it was found 60% had experienced mental illness (82% in England) but most had not sought help. In particular, the data suggests trainees and junior doctors are some of the least likely to reach out.
Psychological ill-health can have enormous repercussions in any context, but the potential implications for suffering within the medical profession are profound. In addition to the challenges it creates for the individual, there are patients to consider. Pathological cynicism and decreased empathy are just a couple of the alarming outcomes that have been associated with stressed and depressed doctors.
Earlier this year, Anglia Ruskin School of Medicine partnered with Positive Group to help support their staff and students and optimise wellbeing and performance. Positive Group uses research from psychology, neuroscience and the medical sciences to equip participants with practical tools and techniques that they can use in their everyday lives. The emphasis is on increasing awareness and helping individuals build positive protective everyday habits that can support them in all aspects of their life. For those entering the medical profession, these habits also offer benefits for their future patients.
At present, one cohort of tutors from Anglia Ruskin University are being taken through the Positive Tutor programme, which initially involves three live training sessions supported by app and online technology. Once tutors have developed their own skills and are confident with the programme content, they are guided in passing on the knowledge and tools to students.
“Over the last few years the number of students registering with counselling departments has increased significantly, both in the sector and at ARU,” says Andrea Cheshire, Director of Student Services at Anglia Ruskin. “More often than not mental health is treated when issues have already arisen and we are in a situation when we are treating mental ill-health. We are partnering with Positive to provide students and staff with the tools that help them build up resilience. We are experimenting with building these tools into the curriculum and the personal tutor system so that every single student can benefit.”
The first module of the programme was delivered to tutors last month with overwhelmingly positive feedback.
“If there was any scepticism in the room at the start of the session it was definitely gone by the end of the afternoon,” says Andrea. “Staff were talking about how they can share their learning with other staff and how they can build it into their delivery to the benefit of every student.”
In addition to the Tutor Programme, Positive have just released PIE, their first entirely app-based programme which is designed to make the core knowledge and tools accessible to a much broader audience.
“Creating a consistent positive culture is so important if we want to achieve lasting change,” explains Dr. Sinéad Devine, Research and Development Lead at Positive Group. “We understand that live programmes aren’t suitable for everyone. PIE is a flexible, accessible option that doesn’t compromise on quality. Our psychological health impacts on every aspect of our lives; if we can reach students and intervene at an early stage, we can teach them how to look after their psychological health and manage everyday challenges, giving them a foundation to support themselves before they become unwell.”
Positive’s practices have been adopted by leading schools and universities across the UK as well as corporate organisations both nationally and internationally. You can find out more about their work by visiting www.positivegroup.org, or go to www.anglia.ac.uk for more information about Anglia Ruskin.