Graduate Students’ Mental Health Highly Neglected, US Universities Organizations Reveal

Graduate Students’ Mental Health Highly Neglected, US Universities Organizations Reveal

Graduate students worldwide need more support while battling depression and anxiety, as mental health issues are increasing at a worrying pace, two American non-profit organizations’ recent report reveals.

The co-produced study by the Jed Foundation in New York City (JED) and the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) identifies graduate students’ challenges such as poor mentorship, the lack of access to counseling services, and training for non-academic careers, Erudera.com reports.

JED’s Chief Clinical Officer, Nance Roy, said that the foundation wants to acknowledge the mental health increase among graduate students.

 “We wanted to include the graduate-student voice in our report but not place the burden of change on them,” Roy also noted.

Similarly to Roy, CGS’ President, Suzanne Ortega, says the organization realized that mental-health increase needed to be addressed.

The psychology and law researcher at Ghent University in Belgium, Katia Levecque, says that mental health implications among junior researchers are widespread worldwide and caused by the pressure put on them to win funding, publish and get jobs in a very competitive market.

“The mindset in academia is very often one in which failure is not an option and where non-academic jobs are not an option,” Levecque said. 

A 2017 study where Levecque was a co-author revealed that one in three PhD students risked developing a mental health disorder throughout their lives, with depression being listed as the number one risk.

Another mental-health survey of 13,000 junior researchers carried out by Cactus Communications based in Mumbai, India, found that one-third (38 percent) of respondents often felt overwhelmed by their work circumstances.

Arildo Dias, a junior scientist who received his PhD in 2013 in plant biology from the State University of Campinas in Brazil, is one of many scientists struggling with anxiety.

“We are always thinking about the future. We don’t have security. We always have temporary contracts. We always have the anxiety and stress that we’re not doing enough or should be doing more,” Dias said.

In 2019, Nature research of PhD scholars across the world revealed that 21 percent of respondents confessed they experienced harassment or discrimination in their programs. Most reported cases of such behavior came from female respondents and from minority ethnic groups. Moreover, respondents from sexual and gender minorities have reported harassment and career obstacles.

Previously, a Council of International Student Australia (CISA) survey revealed that 93 percent of Australia’s international students abroad had reported mental health issues, especially due to the pandemic. The poll has over 600 respondents, 36 percent of whom are considering or have decided to continue their studies in another country.

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