Student and Resident Behavioral Health
Welcome! The Medical College of Wisconsin recognizes its students and residents work hard, long and responsibly. We are aware the demands of education training and service to patients can produce a variety of stressors for individuals and their families. Student and Resident Mental Health Services provides a comprehensive program to meet these professional and personal mental health needs. We value your dedication and hope you find these resources helpful.
Anti-Racism: A Message from Dr. Cipriano
Racism demeans all of us. Working together we all can build a more inclusive and equitable place to learn here at MCW. Our country’s reckoning with hundreds of years of racial injustice as well as painful images of brutality and hate negatively impact our wellbeing. Use the resources on this page to take care of yourself so that you can be a better ally. Or, check out our new tab at the top called Culturally Inclusive Wellbeing for a list of curated offerings. Find resources on cultural inclusivity and on how to be an anti-racist institution at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Schedule an Appointment
You have two primary benefits for accessing mental health services:
- MCW Student and Resident Behavioral Health at the Department of Psychiatry Clinic at Tosa Health Center: (414) 955-8933
- ComPsych, Student Assistance Program with a network of therapists across the state as well as online resources: 1 (833) 927-1860 (note: ComPsych does not offer medication management services).
You may access one or both of these resources. This means more choices for you and expanded benefits! Please visit our Services page for more details.
For Residents and Fellows
To access services, please call our intake line: (414) 955-8933.
There is a Monday evening Housestaff Clinic that runs until 7 p.m., or other expanded hours can be made available.
Discuss options with our intake coordinator, Carolyn Bischel, LPC. If you want to avoid phone tag, email Ms. Bischel at firstname.lastname@example.org. MCWAH offers 3 sessions per academic year at no charge to you. After that, you may use your insurance.
Awkward Silence Presents: Seize the Awkward
Having a conversation about mental health might be uncomfortable, but it can make all the difference.
View the Awkward Silence Presents: Seize the Awkward | Friendship & Mental Health | Ad Council video today!
Beat Stigma. Start the Conversation.
Do you have a hard time finding the right words when talking to someone who is struggling? Reference these helpful examples (PDF) for your future conversations.
Two components of anxietyIt seems like life as a student is one constant round of testing and assessment. Whether it is Step, course exams or shelf exams, the stress of being evaluated can sometimes make it a challenge to do your best.
First of all, most failures of memory on tests are failures of retrieval - not of encoding or storage. That means that it's in there, you just need to find the right key words or search words to find it. This is difficult to do when your anxiety is high. The anxiety has two components: physiological and cognitive. Both of these components take a lot of practice and that practice should take place in conditions similar to the actual test. Take practice tests under such conditions (sitting at a desk, timed, lights on, appropriately dressed, etc.). Then you can practice slowing down the physiological arousal as well as the negative thoughts.
The first step is to slow down the physiological activation.This is happening in the autonomic nervous system, particularly the sympathetic branch. Activating the parasympathetic branch (for all intents and purposes, the vagal nerve) is the classic antidote to sympathetic arousal. Deep breaths stimulate the vagal nerve (at least the branch of it that runs down our chest) - not to mention the benefits of increased oxygen intake. Rocking stimulates the vagal nerve, and some say that placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth, right above the front teeth does too. Of course, any mindfulness meditation can counter autonomic arousal as well.
The second component is the cognitive one.
These are the negative thoughts that often go like this: "If I fail this test, I'll fail this course. And if I fail this course, I'll fail medical/graduate/pharmacy school…” Or, some sort of horriblizing like that. This is what interferes with retrieval and you will have to learn to challenge these thoughts. Examples of healthy self-talk to counter the negative are: "I'm smart enough to have gotten this far...Residencies are placing less emphasis on test scores and are thinking more holistically....I know of people who did not achieve their goal Step 1 score and who are still perfectly happy with their path and career in medicine….One test does not capture the creativity, planning and organization that it takes to be a good researcher."
Surviving Step 1
As you enter your dedicated study time for Step 1, I thought a quick primer in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is in order. Simply put, you’ve got to challenge the negative thinking!
Fear: "I need to learn all this material and it is too much."
Challenge: "I have the ability to focus my mind in a helpful direction right now. I have a study plan and I can focus intentionally on just the bit of information I need to take in today. I already know a lot of this information.”
Fear: "My whole future depends on this score."
Challenge: "I can only give my best possible performance without sacrificing my sanity. There are many potential options for me in medicine and any of them will offer me the professional fulfillment and challenge that I seek."
Fear: "I can’t stop worrying about what score I will get."
Challenge: "Worrying about the future outcome will not change that outcome, but in fact distracts me from focusing. I know how to study, I’ve been doing it my whole life. Anything else is a ‘later worry’ and just interference with the task at hand."
Fear: "My Step score is the only thing that matters."
Challenge: "If the Step score meant everything, it would be the only thing that would be required. Residencies are using a more wholistic approach to admissions these days. I have many other opportunities to shine."
More Study Tips from Dr. Cipriano
- The best way to ensure retrieval of information from long term memory is to associate it with enough ‘search words’ from the new information. In other words, take time to think about connections between new information and things you already know.
- Stress interferes with retrieval from long-term memory. Practice stress-busting strategies like deep breathing during practice tests.
- Reflect on your past experiences with exams. What can you learn from your MCAT experience to gain confidence or adjust your thinking/approach?
- Do some futuring: Focus on the satisfaction of having finished this exam and getting to move on to clerkships.
- Increase positive self-talk ("I’m strong, I've got this"). Visualize being in your zone on test day and being successful.
- If you get agitated or panicky, go online and look up a guided relaxation, breathing exercise, or brief yoga practice. These really do work to calm the body. The more calm your body is, the more focused and in control of your thoughts and feelings you will be.
- Be intentional about your wellness plan. Try to maintain regular sleep, exercise, social connection, and study-free zones. Know your limits. When your brain is done, take time to restore, without guilt.
- Self-care can come in smaller doses. You don’t always have to go for an hour run – you can do a 15-minute walk when you hit a wall.
- Watch your alcohol and substance use.
- Ask for help! Counseling or academic support can be extremely useful, especially if you are noticing any avoidance or procrastination. To reach Student Behavioral Health call (414) 955-8933 or our partner, ComPsych at 1 (833) 927-1860. Or, reach out to Kerri Corcoran, LPC, our mental health resource navigator at email@example.com. For academic support, schedule an appointment at mcw.mywconline.com.
- Explain to your loved ones what is going on. Have these conversations before stress level is high. Let them know, "I may need to call you every night to complain. You don’t need to fix it, just let me vent." Or: "Please don't take it personally, but I may need some space and may only call once a week."
- Check out the section on test anxiety on my website: www.mcw.edu/thrive (on the landing page)
- And finally: have compassion for yourself. You are an amazing, talented human being who could never be reduced to a test score. You will get through this, as you have gotten through everything else in life.
David J. Cipriano, PhD
Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Director, Student and Resident Behavioral Health
(414) 955-8954 | Pager number: (414) 314-5562
View list of Milwaukee-based Student Organizations.
SilverCloud, a Self-Guided Mental Health Resource for Students
SilverCloud is a free, self-guided, interactive mental health resource available to all MCW students, offering online programs for anxiety, depression and stress. Students can complete modules to help with a variety of topics, including sleep, relaxation, grief and loss, self-esteem and more.
For new users, please log into MCWconnect and visit the Student Life tab. Here, you will find instructions, including the required PIN, on how to set up an account. You will be prompted to create your own unique password.
For returning users, you may log into SilverCloud at any time with your username and password through the SilverCloud website.
SilverCloud is a supportive tool, but its content is not intended to be a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need specific advice or assistance, please contact your medical provider.
Take Your Mental Health Vitals: Self Assessment Tools
Sleep-Related Fatigue in Medical Training
Presentation by David J. Cipriano, PhD
Free or low-cost events for students
- Milwaukee Art Museum After Dark
- Milwaukee Art Museum Free First Thursdays
- Milwaukee Public Museum Free First Thursdays
- Milwaukee County Zoo Family Free Days
- Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Student Discount
- Milwaukee Brewers Student Nights
- Jazz in the Park (Thursdays, 5-9 p.m. from the end of May through the end of August)
- Chill on the Hill (Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30 p.m. from June through August)
- $5 Movie Tuesdays at Marcus Theaters
View the Faculty Affairs Wellbeing Newsletter - Wellness Events Calendar (this is an intranet site that requires a user ID and password)
Licensure Application Questions
The AMA has been advocating with state medical boards for appropriate language to be used on state licensure applications. This includes asking only about current impairment in practicing medicine versus probing questions about history or hypothetical situations. The Medical College of Wisconsin is striving to reduce stigma around mental health and to increase care-seeking among our trainees, staff and faculty. Click on the link to see a representation of current states' licensing questions on mental health. Ask your advisor or a trusted mentor if you have questions about how to answer such questions.
Let's Talk About Suicide
How to help someone who is suicidal, and other useful information.
Additional resource: Visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.
Grief Support Groups
Healing Hearts of Waukesha County
Free, local peer groups welcome children, youth, and families who grieve loss due to death, divorce, addiction, incarceration, deportation, or military deployment.
Contact Us/Crisis Support Lines
General: (414) 955-8950
Referral Coordinator: Carolyn Bischel, MS, LPC
During Business Hours
1 (833) 927-1860 ComPsych (students only)
After Business Hours
Counseling services available in partnership with St. Norbert College
Counseling services available in partnership with Elmergreen and Associates
24/7 Support - Provided by Resources Outside of MCW
Support available at no cost through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988
The Crisis Text Line
Provides Free Crisis Support via Text Message:
-Text START to 741741
-Additional information and support available on their website
Green Bay - Family Services of NE Wisconsin
Crisis Support Line
Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division
Crisis Support Line
(414) 257-6300 (for hearing impaired)
Wausau - North Central Health Care
The Trevor Project
LGBT Intervention and Suicide Prevention Hotline
Physician Support Line
Psychiatrists helping physicians and medical students navigate the many intersections of our personal and professional lives.
Physican Support Line website