Clinical and demographic profile of users of a mental health system for medical residents and other health professionals undergoing training at the Universidade Federal de São Paulo

Sao Paulo Med J. 2004 Jul 1;122(4):152-7. doi: 10.1590/s1516-31802004000400004. Epub 2004 Nov 9.


Context: A postgraduate and resident trainee mental health assistance center was created in September 1996 within our university.

Objective: To describe the clinical and demographic profile of its users.

Type of study: Retrospective.

Setting: Universidade Federal de São Paulo--Escola Paulista de Medicina (Unifesp-EPM).

Methods: The study was carried between September 1996 and November 2002, when 233 semi-structured registration forms were filled out either by the psychologist or the psychiatrist during their first contact with the trainees, who were medical and nursing residents, and postgraduate students at specialization, master or doctoral levels. The registration forms included demographic, occupational and clinical data.

Results: The trainees were predominantly young (mean of 27 years old), single (82.0% of cases), women (79.4%), seeking help especially during the first year of training (63.1%). In 70.8% of the cases, they came to the service spontaneously. Such individuals showed greater adherence to the treatment than those who were referred by supervisors (p < 0.05). In 30% of the cases, the trainee sought psychological guidance or support at the service due to specific situational conflicts. Depression and anxiety disorders were the most frequent diagnoses; 22.3% of the trainees followed up mentioned a tendency towards suicidal thoughts. In comparison with other trainees, there was a higher prevalence of males among the medical residents (p < 0.01), with more cases of sleep disorders (p < 0.05), a smaller number of individuals refraining from the use of alcohol (p < 0.05) and a higher number of trainees requiring leave of absence (p < 0.001).

Discussion: The first year of training in health sciences is the most stressful, especially for women. Depression and anxiety symptoms are common, reflecting transitory self-limited deadaptation. However, the severity of the cases can also be evaluated in view of the large number of trainees who mentioned suicidal tendencies.

Conclusions: This study emphasizes the need and importance of providing formal, structured and confidential mental health services for medical residents and postgraduate students from other health professions, in the training programs of academic institutions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / education
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Mental Health
  • Mental Health Services / standards
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy