Doctoral training programs can be draining, physically as well as mentally. The constant pressure of the scientific world and self-expectations may in particular impact on students’ well-being. Recent reports as published in Nature Biotechnology estimate that close to a third of all doctoral student are struggling with mental illnesses during their studies.(1) Therefore, the question of how to care of someone’s mental health during the PhD needs to be addressed.
In the IITM program, students (spear-headed by the fourth-year student Hannah Behrens) and the program administration decided to dedicate a day to this topic and held their first mental health awareness workshop in mid-January. The workshop, which was held by a facilitator from “Oxfordshire Mind”, aimed to improve the general understanding of mental health, provide new ideas of how to look after mental health and provide information about the support systems that can be found in and around Oxford.
Despite the fact that the workshop was only mandatory for first- and second-year students, close to every student enrolled in the program participated and appreciated learning about mental distress and how to prevent it. Working in groups and together with everyone in a private and secure environment broke the silence surrounding mental health issues very quickly. The workshop was a great starting bringing mental health into focus and was well perceived by all students.
This event shall not remain the last of its kind. In future, awareness workshops are likely to become part of the toolkit of newly incoming IITM students. Additionally, plans to further student mental health support through student-to-student peer support underlines the dedication of the IITM program for this topic.
If you are struggling with mental health find more information about the local services following this link.
Written by Felix C. Richter