Written by: Leah McMunn
As students near the end of their post-secondary education, the concern of what comes next often arises. While there are countless options available, choosing to pursue further education through a graduate degree is one option that is becoming increasingly more common. Graduate programs that lead to a master’s degree or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) can open many doors for careers and give you a leg up on other applicants in the job pool. Unfortunately, for many students this may come at the cost of their mental health – something very rarely talked about.
A recent 2018 study from Harvard University showed that graduate students are three times more likely than the average person to experience poor mental health, and that the symptoms of poor mental health worsen the longer the students had been in their respective programs. While my experience is within the thesis-based graduate programs of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field, I am very unsurprised about these findings due to the fundamental nature of completing a graduate degree. You often won’t find graduate students cramming for an exam or attending 8-hours of class a day. Instead, you’ll find them doing research, reading articles, and writing papers that will hopefully be read by future graduate students. Graduate students are often looked at more like full-time employees rather than students, and while they are compensated for their work, their salaries are often near- to below- minimum wage.
A recent study by the Canadian Federation of Students anonymously surveyed 2,001 graduate students across 20 different institutions in Ontario. During their study, they investigated some of the factors that negatively affect student’s mental health. They found that:
These numbers are again, unsurprising to me. For me, mental health is a common discussion with my colleagues when we are out after a long day of work. And yet, the mental health landscape is lagging in its support for this cohort of students. Resources are often unavailable, or do not adequately fit the stresses that graduate students go through daily.
As someone who has suffered from both anxiety and depression over the years, here are some of the tips/tools and resources I have found extremely helpful throughout the beginning of my graduate school journey so far (compiled from both personal experience and my colleagues recommendations):
Major Tips & Tools
Finally, remember that everyone is different! While this strategies and resources may have been helpful for me, they may not work for you. It is extremely important to find what works best for you – and thankfully there are so many available to try. Things like techniques for breathing, mindfulness, and grounding are super easy to learn and a great first step to try for reducing anxiety and stress. You can find information on many of these topics on our website – www.camskids.com.