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This webinar is happening today at Noon ET! I'll probably be tweeting anything of interest, so stay tuned!
Q. Is graduate student's mental health truly a crisis?

A. We don't have a good sense of how prevalent the issues are. Use the term "crisis" to promote awareness of how serious the issue is. The conversation needs to push forward so we can better understand it.
1 in 2 students experience psychiatric distress, 1 in 3 have a psychiatric disorder.

Increasing levels of distress and numbers of people coming in. Is this a result of actual increase or reduced stigma, allowing people to feel comfortable going into a counseling center?
Stresses in academia have become more acute. Angst about what the future looks like, partly due to competitive nature, along with the every day stresses of the work.
We don't have a good benchmark to measure against what we are seeing now. Are we underestimating or overestimating mental health issues?

Not enough data. Could be response bias or selection bias in who takes part in the study. Need broader studies across all disciplines.
Also need to understand what students are coming into the program with and how that might manifest itself in conjunction with the stresses of graduate school.

Numbers of students reporting issues of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, etc. IS increasing, though.
Tends to be a pressure to put on a good, but false front, "I got this, I'm fine." This is difficult for you, but also hard for colleagues who might take that at face value. They think you are just fine, so they wonder what's wrong with them. In reality, no one is alone.
Q. How much of mental wellness is due to environment?

A. Unique stressors at every point. Graduate students are generally high achievers. In a group setting, this can cause you to question yourself. Are you the one who doesn't belong, isn't good enough?
Everyone is comparing themselves to very successful people, or people they perceive to be successful. Leads to imposter syndrome. But all of us in some way, feel that imposter syndrome. We need to talk about it more.
We all share our successes. We also need to share our failures. We don't all succeed all the time and that's okay. Can show each other how to get past it and be resilient and persistent.
Once the conversation gets started, many people will be comfortable also sharing. Need people who are willing to be the first to take that step and put themselves out there in a vulnerable way.
Difficult to recognize what is a normal, challenging experience, and what is a problematic one. Need to help people figure out which it is. What are normal levels of stress versus unhealthy levels?
Faculty will say, "I'm not a mental health professional, so how can I identify this?"

Reach out to clinical experts. Notify someone that there could be an issue. Need to rely on those who are equipped to handle a situation. Help student get to appropriate resource.
Faculty is also in a position to be a mentor, though, so they should be supportive, encouraging, and not dismissive. How you run a lab or class can also make a significant impact on students.
Important to send the message the failure is a critical part of science. We need to send that message more often and make it clear that failure can be beneficial for growth.
Can have an evidence-based approach to mental health. Need to share study results, research and constantly be working to improve and iterate the approach. What's working? What's not working? Integration and collaboration is needed.
Important to take care of yourself when under stress, perhaps even more so. Academia tends to have nomads, which results in leaving support network behind. Need to proactively rebuild that system & have it in place BEFORE the stress hits.
Advisors/professors have never been trained on how to handle mental health, or even how to manage people. Need to be a better job in training them, providing them with resources that can help them help their students.
Creating more of a positive, open-minded environment can relieve a lot of stress for students. Give them permission to take a different approach or path than the one you might have had in mind. Give them space/time for themselves when needed.
The sense of competition should be addressed directly to relieve some of the pressure that can exist in graduate programs. This takes a leader who is cognizant and aware of these dynamics within a program.
Advisors/faculty also need to take care of themselves. Faculty wellness should be part of the conversation and resources for them should also be available. Senior faculty can mentor newer faculty, but both groups can learn from each other.
In some studies, there was evidence of "war stories" and students modeling that behavior. I.e. "we worked 70 hour weeks, so you need to do." Even if not explicitly stated, that culture trickles down.
What about advisors/colleagues who bully? How does a student address this?

Need to have support system outside of the department that students can go to. Someone who can provide conflict resolution. Peer groups among students are also helpful- sense of community.
Can remain hidden- saying "we don't have that problem" leads to people not speaking up. Need to create an atmosphere of psychological safety so that people feel free to be open & honest about what is going on. This can start with institutional leaders.
Extremely stressful situations can cause tunnel vision. Hard to see options or people who may be able to help. Easier to put your head down and pretend like nothing is happening.
Can relate to this question- how does a student talk about their mental health with parents who are conservative & may not understand?

Can be helpful to talk about impact of what someone is experiencing. They may relate better to those terms as opposed to clinical terms.
Need to avoid pitfall of relying solely on a partner for mental health support.

YES! This is why I started therapy in the first place. So important to recognize the limit or capacity of someone to provide support, no matter how much they love or care about you.
How does one get back to normal after a breakdown or burnout?

Need to take the time to heal. Easy to fall back into a negative pattern if returning too quickly. Taking a step back can provide perspective & help you remember why you are doing something. Regain inspiration.
It's a community responsibility to take care of each other in a very intentional way. Be proactive about noticing people and talking with them. Can be very impactful when someone knows people are there to help them work through various issues.
Constructive coping: Rather than trying to add in various coping mechanisms, take a step back & take note of what activities energize you- what are you already doing that is having a positive impact? What are stressors that could be minimized?
Final slide with resources:

Webinar will be available in about 48 hours for viewing. I can post the link once it's online for anyone interested in viewing it in its entirety. Great discussion-highly recommend checking it out!
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