36. “We Burnout, We Break, We Die” Author Christopher Veal Speaks Out About Medical Student Mental Health and Suicide

My guest today is Christopher Thomas Veal, a 4th-year medical student at The Larner College of Medicine in Vermont. Christopher earned his Bachelor of Science in Studio Art and Biochemistry at The University of Vermont. He has served on the Vermont Governor’s Council for Child and Family Prevention Programs and has led several activist groups while in medical school. He has also published essays centered on mental health advocacy and social justice in the annals of internal medicine and academic medicine. Currently, he is directing a film series centered on medical student’s mental health called The Larner Stories Project

Caution: This episode discusses the subject of suicide and may be a trigger for some. If you or someone you love struggles with suicidal thoughts, please reach out. The Hotline for Suicide Prevention is 1-800-273-8255 or Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741

[00:01 – 36:20] Christopher Shares His Story

  • As Christopher journeyed into medical school, the heavy pressure of failure, expectation, discrimination, and isolation drove him into depression. 
  • Calling his late friend’s mother saved his life. Christopher began going to therapy, got the support system that he needed, and embraced failure as an avenue for growth.  
  • In 2020 Christopher experienced an awakening in recognizing the role he had in activism after experiencing the pain, death, discrimination and financial turmoil COVID-19 brought onto minorities
  • Christopher began sharing stories of lived experiences in order to help others 

 

[36:20 – 46:54] The Longing for Belonging

  • Christopher felt the importance of letting people know suicide is not the only option. 
  • Dr. Lia and Christopher discuss how the privilege of accessing mental health may not even have been something people of color realized was an option for them.  

 

[46:55 – 54:14]  Christopher’s Activism in Kenosha

  • Mental and Physical health care is a right, not a privilege. 
  • Christopher’s pursuit into psychiatry and primary care comes from a hope to serve his community and provide a place of belonging for people of color who have been minoritized

 

[54:15 – 00:00]  If You Could Go Back and Give Yourself Advice What Would It Be?

  • To recognize that failure will build you into who you will become. To not live in fear but to live honestly, passionately, and authentically.  
  • To connect with Christopher Veal please visit the links and resources below 
  • Main Takeaways:  
  • It is critical that medical training programs create a safe and welcoming place for medical students.
  • Out of hopelessness, there is hope and help. 
  • Medical training continues to promote the stigma of failure and culture of perfectionism 
  • As a black man Christopher shared a painful reality. “There is a target on my back that follows generations of racism and dehumanization.”   
  • Black patients may not seek mental health because it historically has not been seen as an option. This is exclusionism.  
  • Activism is an obligation to change minds and change hearts. 
  • A message to medical students; Asking for help works, therapy help and there is no shame in failure.  

 

Tweetable Quotes:

“When I started looking at failure as an opportunity instead of a liability, that’s when things started to turn around.” – Christopher Veal

“We burn out, we break from the pressure and we die. Whether it’s by suicide or by an accident that could have been prevented, these are things that are majorly affecting our profession and what’s sad is that it’s not being talked about.” – Christopher Veal

“When that ‘Why to live’ becomes obscured and distant, getting to that ‘How I’m gonna live’ is very difficult to envision.”  – Christopher Veal

“ I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Micheal Jordan

Resources Mentioned:

 

To connect with Christopher Veal you can reach him on LinkedIn

If you’d like to connect with me, you can find me at LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter or email me at [email protected]. To learn more about me visit https://www.medicalbhs.com/

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Dr Lia Gaggino

Dr Lia Gaggino Host of the Pediatric Meltdown Podcast

Dr. Lia Gaggino has worked as a pediatrician for over 30 years on the west side of Michigan. During her career as a primary care physician, she has been privileged to care for children and adolescents, and know that their success is closely tied to mental wellness.

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Dr. Lia Gaggino has worked as a pediatrician for over 30 years on the west side of Michigan. During her career as a primary care physician, she has been privileged to care for children and adolescents, and know that their success is closely tied to mental wellness.

Recent Episodes

  • All Post
  • ADHD
  • Advocacy
  • Aggression and Disruptive Behaviors
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
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  • Depression
  • Genetics
  • healthcare disparities and inequalities
  • LGBTQIA+
  • Medications
  • Mental Health
  • Other
  • Pain
  • Parent/child
  • Physician Well-Being
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sleep
  • Social Media
  • Substance Abuse
  • Suicide Prevention
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