Current findings indicate that depression and suicidal ideation are prevalent in medical students. The main aim was to systematically review articles related to depression and suicidal behavior among medical students. Using MEDLINE a systematic review was made, combining the keywords “depression”, “suicide”, “suicidal ideation”, “suicidal behavior” and “AND medical students”. English and Portuguese peer-reviewed original articles published between January 2005 and June 2011 were included. From the 114 identified by systematic search, 37 articles were found after excluding studies where medical students´ reaction to patient suicide or depression was studied, studies not using a standardized depression instrument and students from other than conventional medical schools. Prevalence of depression in medical students ranged from 2.9% to 38.2%, suicidal ideation from 4.4% to 23.1% and suicidal attempts from 0.0% to 6.4%. Studies suggest that prevalence of depression is higher in female medical students, younger students and lower years in medical schools. Mixed results were found about the relationship between depression and ethnicity. Regarding suicidal behavior there were mixed results in the relationship of gender and year of medical school. No relationship was found between suicidal behavior and age, and suicidal ideation and race. Increasing awareness about the prevalence of depression, suicidal behavior and associated factors among medical students is needed. Psychoeducation on early recognition about depression and suicidal behavior and available treatment resources for students, and counteracting the stigma associated with these conditions, could prevent hazardous consequences, by promoting preventive programs and an easier and confidential access to psychiatric treatment.
Keywords: Depression, medical students, prevention, suicidal attempts, suicidal ideation and treatment.