Let’s discuss #mentalhealth in academia – #DiversityJC recap

This month our DiversityJC discussed an important topic: what we can do to improve mental health in academia. We are going to share the main insights here, but you can read the full discussion on our storify. We had special (and courageous) guests that recently shared their own personal experiences:

Although there seem to be a bit more dialogue about #mentalhealth in academia, this is still a difficult topic to discuss, and we still rarely engage it fully. For our August discussion, we first asked our guests what prompted them to share their experiences in their blogs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some academics may be inclined to share our experiences, but don’t do it for fear of retaliation. Or as @abigailleigh put it “I worried that my colleagues will look at me strangely, assuming I couldn’t do my research b/c of my mental illness.” But our guests also had positive responses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indeed. While positive our guests had support, it is not always the case – we do need to feel safe discussing those issues openly, with supervisors and colleagues!

 

 

 

 

 

Accepting and understanding mental health is a crucial part of the process. For that to happen, it is important we talk openly about mental health to alleviate its toll, making it more manageable. Speaking about mental health also lets other academics know they can talk about health issues. Academia applies constant pressure, which likely plays a role in the prevalence of anxiety and depression (e.g. in grad students), so it’s also likely many of us are hiding related struggles. Further support can come from our institutions, which need to actively promote mental health by developing and making resources available, accessible, and visible.

Many successful academics and other professionals deal with mental illnesses. They are effective despite it. Being able to put down the weight of depression or cut away the thicket of anxiety would make them even better scientists. Living with mental illness takes strength and treating them means making people more themselves.

Thanks to all that joined/listened to our #DiversityJC. We hope that this discussion encourage others to share their experiences and talk about their mental health issues. We are a community, and we must stand for each other!

@Doctor_PMS
@DrEmilySKlein
@IHStreet

Links:

The human cost of the pressures of postdoctoral research

Mental Health and Conferences: A Practical Guide

Mental health programs in schools – growing body of evidence supports effectiveness

Mental Health resources:

@TWLOHA, @TheMightySite, @healthyminds, @amhc2016, @chron_ac,

Apps:

Moodlog@headspace, @worrywatchapp,

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Gone Mental: The next Diversity Journal Club

There’s been a trend in our most recent DiveristyJC discussions: mental health.

 

“If it’s too hot in here, get out of the kitchen.”

“You can’t expect to take weekends off.”

“Have you submitted that paper yet?”

 

There are many reasons we’re stressed out in STEM, but what is “normal” stress, and what is far beyond it? We all complain about deadlines, but when do we actually talk about the toll it all takes on our health? Moreover, we already stigmatize mental health concerns and mental illness in this country – now we place that in the competitive culture of academia.

 

It’s no surprise we rarely talk about mental health, rarely seek help for it.

 

For this next Diversity Journal Club, we will focus on the following two posts from The Gaurdian:

Dark thoughts: why mental illness is on the rise in academia

Mental health issues in academia: ‘stories are not cries of the privileged’

In addition to these, some further articles of interest:
Paying Graduate School’s Mental Toll
The Stressed-Out Postdoc
Get Help: How the myth of self-sufficiency fails PhD students with mental illness

And the entire Guardian series, Mental health: A university crisis

 
Increasingly, we are talking about mental health in STEM careers and academia. Let’s use the Diversity JC space to do so here – but let’s also focus on how these mental health concerns intersects with diversity, as it assuredly does.


Please join us on Monday 20 April at 2pm EST on twitter, under #DiversityJC. We will also have the fantastic Ian Streen (@IHStreet) to help co-moderate!

 

Emily K.


Doctor PM