In many countries, the white coat ceremony is a ritual that signifies the entry of medical students to the clinical phase of their training. It is a symbolic transition welcoming students after their preclinical training into the doctors' 'community of practice'. I recently delivered a keynote lecture to a cohort of students starting their medical training at Xavier University School of Medicine, Aruba and it was an honor to address these promising young individuals. By sharing my professional experiences with them, I hoped to inspire them and also ground them in the realities of the choice they were about to make.
Speaking to a packed auditorium of people wearing face masks, I scanned the hope and desire in the eyes of these students and reflected on the kind of health challenges they would be facing 10, 15, probably 20 years from now. What I saw reminded me of my enthusiasm, idealism, and the dose of naivety at the beginning of my own career 37 years ago.
In 2021, a group of scientific, economic, and political experts came together at the University of Sydney to build a systems model that could forecast the impact of Covid-19 on critical mental health outcomes. It revealed that mental health-related emergencies, suicide attempts, and deaths would increase by an average of 23 percent of the total population and 32 percent of the youth population. Economic productivity costs were estimated at $11.3 billion in lost productivity among the young due to psychological distress, hospitalizations, and suicide (attempts).
It is claimed that a nation's mental wealth is its citizens' collective cognitive and emotional resources. This wealth includes mental capital, mental health, and mental wellbeing. However, how these resources are nurtured, (will) determine a country's economic competitiveness and prosperity and define its communities' collective wellbeing and resilience. Unfortunately, the projections are that we will be facing a new 'mental health' pandemic within the next five years.
Hence, my message to the students was to strive to become competent and reliable doctors with high moral standards. Also, to develop emotional resilience and be mentally prepared to deal with the onslaught of emerging mental health problems that the world shall face.
Jamiu Busari, associate professor of medical education FHML, dean Health Professions Education (HOH Academy Aruba)