For anyone experiencing severe depression or considering suicide, there are emergency resources to help.
Please reach out, there are people waiting to help:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
The stress and adversity of grad school will take its toll on the mental health of all of us. This will often be compounded by other difficulties in life, from health to finances. This is said not to scare you, but to remind you that while your situation may be unique, you are undoubtedly not alone in feeling completely overwhelmed at times. There are resources to help! Please see below for a list of articles, podcasts, psych services, and more. And if you feel comfortable, you can ask fellow grads for advice or about their experience. In fact, many of us utilize services like CAPS!
For students (undergraduate and graduate)
Counseling and Psych Services (CAPS) offer counseling for various issues, including anxiety, depression, relationships, alcohol and other drug use, sleep, eating/body image, sexual assault, relationship violence, troublesome thoughts or behavior, physical or emotional trauma, family concerns, unanticipated life crises and other personal concerns. Counseling appointments are available to all currently enrolled students and have a have a small copay ($20 or $25).
For benefits-eligible UA employees*:
*benefits-eligible employees normally excludes graduate students. Graduate students should go to CAPS instead (see above). We have still included this resource here in case one of your friends or coworkers who are UA employees and not enrolled as students needs it.
For everyone (including non-UA members)
The Southern Arizona Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers support groups, resources and advocacy for individuals affected by mental illnesses as well as their family members and friends.
The Psychology Department Behavioral Health Clinic (BHC) offers low-cost ($25 - $30 per session) outpatient therapy to individuals, couples, and families for brief treatment of problems including anxiety, dperession, coping with illness, relationship issues, alcohol & substance use problems, life crises, and more. The BHC serves as a training center for graduate students in the department's PhD program for clinical pyschology and pschologists-in-training provide services while supervised by licensed clinical faculty from the department. BHC is a great resource and is an excellent alternative to CAPS (see above) and may provide more flexability for scheduling.
Studies and Articles on Mental Health in Academia
Focusing on graduate students
Levecque et al. (2017) look at a sample of PhD students in Flanders, Belgium (N=3659). From the abstract: "Results based on 12 mental health symptoms (GHQ-12) showed that 32% of PhD students are at risk of having or developing a common psychiatric disorder, especially depression. This estimate was significantly higher than those obtained in the comparison groups. Organizational policies were significantly associated with the prevalence of mental health problems. Especially work-family interface, job demands and job control, the supervisor’s leadership style, team decision-making culture, and perception of a career outside academia are linked to mental health problems."
Evans et al. (2018) look at a sample of 2,279 graduate students from 26 countries and 234 institutions. They find that graduate students are six times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than the general population.* 39% of graduate students showed symptoms of moderate to severe depression. Women consistently had higher rates of mental health disorders than men, and transgender and gender-non-conforming students had even much higher rates of mental health disorders. Students who suffered from anxiety or depression were very likely to state that they did not feel they had a good work-life balance, and that their advisor did not provide good mentorship.
*I've seen that specific number criticized because they compare numbers from two different methods. But that does not change the shockingly high prevalence of depression and anxiety they find in the study.
The University of Arizona GPSC Graduate Student Mental Health report 2015 states in the summary: "Many students report feeling that their physical health has decreased since beginning graduate school; however, the majority of students report that their health is fair to very good.
- Many students report that their sleep is worse than when they started graduate/professional studies.
- Many students report that their exercise routine is worse than when they started graduate/professional studies.
- Many students report that their diet is worse than when they started graduate/professional studies.
- Many students report that their mental health is worse, and that stress has increased, since they began graduate/professional studies."
The Berkeley Graduate Student Happiness & Well-Being Report 2014 finds that the top predictors for depression are sleep, overall health and academic engagement. The overall top 10 predictors of life satisfaction are
- Career Prospects
- Overall Health
- Living Conditions
- Academic Engagement
- Social Support
- Financial Confidence
- Academic Progress & Preparation
- Feeling Valued & Included
- Advisor Relationship
Other notable findings of the report are that "lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer (LGBQ) students report significantly lower life satisfaction and higher depression" and that, while "traditional racial or ethnic categories are not predictive of well-being gaps", "older students and non-white students, particularly African-American and Native American/Alaska Native students, are less likely to feel valued and included in their departments and less likely to feel that their cultures are valued and respected."
Focusing on postdocs
The National Postdoctoral Association has a good summary of facts and studies on this topic; most notable perhaps are their recommendations:
- Release information about your university’s mental health facility, OMBUDs office, and confidential counseling services several times a year! These services provide a safe and confidential mechanism for sharing frustrations and talking through difficult situations. A recurring concern among all of the surveys conducted was that postdoctoral fellows were not aware that these services were available to them.
- Provide outlets for physical, mental, and social wellness without placing fees or limiting access to a particular subset of trainee, faculty, or administrative staff. Offering recreational or extracurricular activities provide opportunities to get out of the work environment as well as bond with co-workers or expand your personal network.
- Encourage faculty to explore training opportunities about positive mentorship and advising to increase healthy dialogue between mentors and mentees.
- Encourage graduate and postdoctoral trainees to take an active role in their own training and learn how to advocate for their needs in a productive manner.
- Promote further research. Institutional surveys are an important step to identifying the specific needs of trainees, and provide a method for obtaining institutional support.
Focusing on faculty members
A study on faculty members with mental health issues found that while a large fraction (62%) of faculty members with mental health conditions had disclosed to their condition to someone in their work environment (most likely to a trusted colleague, and still fairly often to the department chair), a very small fraction had informed an office of disability services. Furthermore, almost half of faculty surveyed said they were not familiar with accommodations they were entitled to, and 25% said they were "slightly familiar".
Mental Health and Addiction
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a "relapsing" disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.
Drug addiction is a complex disorder that can involve virtually every aspect of an individual's functioning—in the family, at work and school, and in the community.
You are not alone, please seek help for your addiction.
Below are some resources you can use to get sober or clean:
Rehabilitation clinics in Tucson, AZ: https://drugabuse.com/usa/drug-abuse/tucson-az/
Miscellaneous links and podcasts
Self-care with Drs. Sarah & Sarah - Episode on Therapy
A comic describing someone's personal experience with depression; described as highly relatable by one of my facebook friends:
Intelligent.com report on statistics of mental health disorders amongst college students. This is followed by several common questions which are answered by a licensed psychologist. A brief "know your rights" section is provided and several apps that can help with some of the day-to-day stress of mental health are recommended. Finally, some scholarships and several external resources are listed for students with mental health problems: