Research into the mental health of graduate students

(02-07-2021) LIISA coordinator Prof Katia Levecque was recently interviewed by the renowned Nature Magazine.

The article zooms in on mental-health problems among junior researchers and discusses a study co-produced by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) in Washington DC and the Jed Foundation (JED) in New York City. In the interview, PhD students share how they cope with imposter syndrome and which approach they adopt during their PhD track.

Katia Levecque explains that 'mental-health problems among junior researchers are not specific to the United States, and are driven, in part, by the immense pressure on academic scientists to win funding, publish and land jobs in a brutally competitive market. The mindset in academia is very often one in which failure is not an option and where non-academic jobs are not an option.' She clarifies that the pandemic has exacerbated the problem for young researchers, but it existed well before that. 

Some institutions have implemented individually focused programmes for graduate students, such as yoga, meditation and time-management workshops. However, these initiatives address only the symptoms while overlooking the drivers of mental-health issues in academia, argues Levecque.

"You have the danger of ‘mopping with the tap open'. The individual might build up more resilience, regain motivation, and plan her or his work better, but in essence the health-damaging structural causes are not tackled." - Prof Katia Levecque