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ISP for medical schools, hospitals and health systems

Medical and professional degree schools, hospitals and health systems across the country are using ISP to offer physicians, medical students, residents, and trainees a safe and confidential way to connect with mental health services.

Why do medical schools need ISP?

How does ISP work?

Each medical school, hospital or health system partners with AFSP to receive their own fully customized ISP platform where physicians, medical students, residents, can anonymously:

  • Take a brief stress and depression questionnaire
  • Receive a personalized response from a program counselor (provided by the medical school, hospital, or health system, often in partnership with their student and/or staff assistance programs)
  • Exchange messages with the counselor – ask questions and learn about available services
  • Get feedback and encouragement
  • Make an appointment or request a referral to meet with a counselor in person

Outreach

Outreach is strategically planned according to clinical time available and when individuals would be more likely to take advantage of ISP. Your staff selects groups of individuals within the medical school, hospital or health system – often by department – and those individuals receive emails or other forms of outreach materials throughout the year inviting them to participate in ISP.

On your ISP website, first-time participants create a self-assigned User ID and password to anonymously take a brief questionnaire. Based on the answers to the questionnaire, the participant is classified into one of three levels of distress, known as tiers.

Connection

Within 24-28 hours, depending on the participants’ tier, your counselors log in and post a personal response to the participant with feedback and support for next steps.

Engagement

Participants review the counselor’s responses. Then, using ISP’s dialogue feature, counselors and participants can exchange messages about available mental health resources and service offerings.

What makes ISP unique?

The personal connection made between participants and counselors is the most important aspect of ISP. Individuals experiencing mental health concerns are often isolated, and may have fears or concerns about disclosing what they are going through. Some may have had negative experiences reaching out for help previously. Connecting with a counselor who is willing to listen and work together to address their concerns about seeking services can make all the difference.

Integral to a comprehensive suicide prevention and mental health promotion strategy, ISP makes it possible for medical schools, hospitals and health systems to extend help to physicians, medical students, residents and trainees who are too often struggling in silence.

“[ISP] was a lifeline. I felt lost in life, unhappy with my status and direction…I felt like a failure professionally and personally…I needed help…This program started my journey.” – Medical Student

Program findings

ISP has been extensively evaluated, and published studies have reported the success of the ISP. Findings include:

  • 27 percent of students, residents and faculty who participated in ISP at a leading medical school were found to be at significant risk for depression and suicide; Less than 15 percent were receiving counseling or therapy. Read more.
  • Among participants in the high-risk group, 48 percent received referrals for further evaluation and treatment from the ISP counselor. Read more.
  • In a recent evaluation using ISP data from six medical schools, 98% of participants (students, residents, and faculty physicians) were designated as having high or moderate distress; Only 5% were receiving counseling or therapy. Read more.
  • Among program participants, prevalence rates of distress were higher among medical students and residents versus faculty physicians. The rate of program engagement was high overall although highest among those most distressed, with 32% engaging in online dialogue with a program counselor. Read more.

How can I bring ISP to my medical school, hospital or health system?

ISP is currently being implemented at a variety of medical and professional degree schools, hospitals and health systems.

Mental health services and clinical personnel provided by each institution are required for ISP implementation. As part of the implementation process, our team will work with you to integrate ISP into your mental health programming, such as physician wellness programs and other outreach efforts.

Institutions license ISP for a 3-year program term and provide the clinical staff to support the program. The license provides:

  • Dedicated AFSP staff to support program implementation
  • Ongoing technical support
  • Customized ISP website
  • Counselor training in all program functions
  • Assistance with data reporting and evaluation

Complete the interest form, and ISP staff will contact you to discuss how ISP can be implemented as an integral part of your institution’s mental health promotion and suicide prevention efforts.

For questions, please contact the Program Director at isp@afsp.org.

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