From 30 September to 4 October, the University of Pretoria will be hosting its annual Anti-Discrimination and Social Justice Week. According to the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, Prof Tawana Kupe, “we must all, individually and collectively, redouble our efforts in this important process of social change. We all need to be aware that without eradicating all forms of discrimination to achieve justice, we will not become the university we ought to be: one that is transformed and critically influences and contributes to achieving social justice in society”.
As part of the observation of the Annual Anti-Discrimination and Social Justice week the Faculty of Health Sciences at Prinshof Campus, which is the medical campus of the University of Pretoria, hosted a series of group discussions and seminars on 1 October to look at discrimination in the medical field. Particularly the challenges which are faced by medical students at all levels, the traumas they are subjected to as they perform their duties and the discrimination aimed at them – in the sense that it is expected of them to be ‘strong’ and carry on as normal even with the pressures of their duties as student medical professionals. Medical professionals are often routinely faced with traumas while taking care of their patients, which may affect the mental wellness of medical professionals, but that conversation is rarely had.rom 30 September to 4 October, the University of Pretoria will be hosting its annual Anti-Discrimination and Social Justice Week. According to the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, Prof Tawana Kupe, “we must all, individually and collectively, redouble our efforts in this important process of social change. We all need to be aware that without eradicating all forms of discrimination to achieve justice, we will not become the university we ought to be: one that is transformed and critically influences and contributes to achieving social justice in society”.
Medical professionals are stereotypically perceived as never suffering from breakdowns, trauma, anxiety and even depression, however, often it is the opposite of this. No matter how well trained the individual is, no one can be prepared enough for trauma. According to Alexa Scher of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), there are pioneering support groups all over the country and in the University of Pretoria not only for medical students but all students. “The goal for this is to reduce the pressure on the University’s Student Counselling and get an extra line of support for students, in that these groups will bring extra support to help them cope during a particularly difficult time” she said. Counselling plays a huge role in helping medical students cope with the stress caused by the pressure of their work. However, according to Alexa Secher – support groups will be very beneficial for medical students as they would all be from the same faculty and would be able to share common experiences and pressures. She also points out that, “on campus there is 1 psychologist for 600 students and that is not just. Students wait a long time and the SADAG care line wants to provide that extra support for medical students. The care line operates 24 hours.” Alexa Secher also mentions that should a student need counselling due to academic pressures or any other stress and trauma they should contact the UP-Careline on 0800747747 or SMS UP to 31393 and a counsellor will call you back.
Daniella dos Reis, one of the speakers from SADAG, noted that medical students and qualified medical professionals go through trauma, particularly what she calls ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ better known as PTSD. When they open up about PTSD, they tend to be discriminated against. According to dos Reis: “Medical student professionals are not only exposed to incredibly traumatic content around us, in their personal lives or in the country in general but are also greatly exposed to traumatic content in their line of work. It is important to have productive conversations and understand what comes up when we see and hear these things”.
Danielle dos Reis further explains that student medical professionals can be traumatised by what they experience from their patients and that the sense of helplessness that comes with it can sometimes prove to be traumatic to medical professionals. The central message of the speakers was that student medical professionals deserve to be heard and not discriminated against when they express their traumas and when they are overwhelmed by the traumatic experiences of their day-to-day work.