Mental Health Support Needed for Graduate Students
A recent survey has found that mental illness is a growing concern with graduate students. These findings add to the rising need to address mental health concerns in higher education students.
Findings show a high level of mental health concerns
The paper by Evans, Bira, Gastelum, Weiss and Vanderford can be accessed from Nature Biotechnology. It involved a global survey of over 2,200 PhD and Master’s students across 26 countries. A report notes that the survey found “strikingly high” levels of anxiety and depression in respondents. Postgraduate students were over 6 times more likely to experience moderate to severe anxiety and depression in comparison to the general population. These results demonstrate an immediate need for mental health interventions with postgraduate students.
Mental health concerns are not just limited to students, another study has found. Gail Kinman’s paper in the Journal of Educational Psychology observes psychological distress in academic staff. The high levels stress and possible mental health concerns experienced by academic staff may impede their ability to provide aid to students. Kinman suggests that students should take steps to foster their mental health by seeking help and surrounding themselves with allies.
Supportive relationships were an important factor
Postgraduate studies are often associated with working an isolation, which can be damaging factor in well-being. Data from Evans et al.’s paper suggests that a strong relationship with one’s principal investigator has a positive correlation with a healthy work-life balance. In line with this, approximately half of respondents reported not having strong connections with their principal investigator. Over half of these participants did not feel as if they had a healthy balance between their studies and personal life. Without this balance, mental health can quickly deteriorate. Co-author, Teresa Evans, writes that a social network is crucial for all students to maintain well-being:
It is very important to know who you can turn to and … build that team of people now so that you have them.
Having a hero squad is something that we have discussed earlier on the blog, and is an important resource for all kinds of individuals.
Addressing these concerns
The authors of the survey emphasise the importance of mental health interventions in higher education institutions. Some of the interventions suggested include spreading awareness of mental health concerns, training principal investigators to identify and assist with concerns, and access to appropriate resources and services.
Thankfully, many universities are taking the call to action and taking steps to improve students’ mental health. A postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Wendy Ingram, is pushing for more incentives to mental health awareness. She argues that real change is not just about crisis management, but about the “creation of a culture that is about prevention and intervention”.
Mental Health First Aid is one of the leading intervention programs for mental health concerns in Australia. Find out more about how you or your organisation can gain the skills and resources to aid someone experiencing a mental health concern.