An Elephant in the Room

Perhaps its something I should have mentioned already..perhaps it is unreasonable for me to be silent on the topic any longer after all its quite close to home…

Depression in Academia – its a common occurence, a PhD breakdown is so recognisable as to be cliché. But do we shrug it off too easily? Why do so many people suffer- is there something about academics or academia that make people more susceptible? Is there a variation across disciplines?

A relatively quick search across the web makes a number of key points: a) statistics on depression and other mental health issues amongst graduate students are pretty scary b) Certain attitudes, perceptions and habits amongst students (especially at post-grad level) and staff are probably contributing c) Researchers are starting to talk (e.g. this blog post..) about this topic but haven’t yet started to act on it.

Graduate students are increasingly expected to jump through performance and development hoops and teach courses whilst writing and all with little hope of making it into academia. Imposter syndrome is widespread, pressure to perform is never-ending and supervisors are overworked with little time to dedicate to their own research let alone engage with helping students find new pathways and networks or notice when they start to lag.
The main issue is really awareness – mental health issues effect 1 in 4 people in the UK in every year, about 9% of the population meet the criteria for mixed anxiety and depression at any time so statistically plenty of people in any university will be suffering. Over-achieving perfectionists who spend a lot of time indoors and keep odd hours are perhaps obviously at risk. More and more universities are trying to encourage students to talk about their emotional life and to keep an eye on each other, but I think more than that can be done.

What then?
Well how about education? I don’t just mean telling people about the signs, symptoms and treatments but about how it effects studying….
More thoughts here and here.

Any Thoughts?

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