6. Themed Days

6.10. Day 10: Mental Health and Addiction

Preparatory work

In preparation students should have:

  • Researched the national statistics on the incidence and prevalence of mental health problems; The Mental Health Foundation website is one source of statistics on mental health.   
  • Reviewed the Mind website as a good starting point for learning about mental illness and how it impacts on people's lives; it has an A-Z of mental health conditions and blogs/video diaries telling people’s stories.
  • Read this article on mental health perspectives from The Guardian, which has recommendations on mental health services from service users.
  • Looked at the NHS website pages on addiction, which has information on different addictions, treatment options and patient stories.
  • Considered how the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially the lockdown measures, have affected people’s mental health and addiction problems; there is an episode of ‘Hooked: The unexpected addicts’ that focuses on Lockdown.
  • Thought about how healthcare professionals, including medical students, need to be aware of their own mental health and wellbeing; there are a number of GP wellbeing resources signposted on the RCGP website.



To introduce students to health promotion strategies to improve mental health; to the impact of chronic and acute mental illness on the health of the population and the multi-agency support needed in the promotion of mental health and management of mental illness.  To explore the links between mental illness and addiction.


Learning outcomes 

By the end of the day students should be able to:

  • Identify local and national strategies to improve mental health
  • Discuss the national and practice prevalence of mental illness
  • Identify the addictions commonly encountered in the practice population
  • Describe the local support services for people with addictions and/or mental illness
  • Discuss the different needs of patients with acute and chronic mental health problems
  • Know how to access student support services and healthcare practitioner wellbeing resources



Example timetable  

9.30 – 10.30

Tutorial on mental health illness and addiction


10.30 – 10.45


Tea break

10.45 – 11.45

Prepare for patient encounters

  • Plan questions and observations


Patient encounters

  • Interview a patient with a mental health and/or addiction condition


11.45 – 12.30


Students feedback to group on their patient encounters


12.30 – 13.30



13.30 – 14.15

Looking after ourselves as well as our patients


14.15 – 14.30

Tea break & small groups prepare for poster presentations


14.30 – 15.30

Poster presentations and Q&A


15.30 – 16.00

Any final debriefing discussion

Set homework for next session


Suggested Activities

  • Tutorial on mental health – could cover mental health promotion, acute and chronic mental illness and addiction; group brainstorms and discusses mental health symptoms, different diagnoses, what addictions there are; quiz e.g. mental health quiz from the time to change website; hot topics e.g. impact of COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental health and addiction.
  • Practising self-compassion: looking after ourselves as well as our patients – could watch the TEDx Talk ‘Our healthcare systems are making doctors mentally ill’; discuss the importance of practitioner self-compassion and how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this; look at resources for healthcare practitioner and medical student mental health and wellbeing; individual task to list things/activities that students find promote their own wellbeing and good mental health and things that don’t (this does not need to then be shared within the group).
  • Interview with a patient with chronic mental illness and/or addiction problem.
  • Role-play scenarios.
  • Online research and/or visit to agency providing support for people with mental illness or addiction.
  • Consider health promotion in regards to mental health and addiction; breakout task in small groups to prepare a piece of health promotion material regarding mental health or addiction.

Questions for students to consider

  • How do you feel about mental illness - is it something that can be treated and cured like ‘other’ illnesses that doctors treat?  Are you comfortable speaking to patients with mental health problems?  If not, why not?
  • How does society regard people that are addicted to drugs or alcohol?  As sick, mentally ill, deviant, bad, dangerous?  What is the role of the doctor in supporting such patients?
  • What practical steps can you take to promote your own wellbeing and good mental health? What signs might you notice if you were struggling with your mental health and how could you access support?