As Graduate Professor-in-Charge, I meet with students frequently, and concerns around stress and mental health arise in a range of contexts. A while ago, a student expressed some concern about there being a stigma on mental health issues, and so I spent some time considering how I, as Grad Director (and as a non-clinician), could address these concerns without sounding preachy or condescending. After consulting with some of our clinically trained faculty, I sent the following email to our graduate students to provide students with thoughts and resources on the topic. I also forwarded it to faculty so that they could see the messages I was communicating to students. How does your department address student mental health and wellbeing?
Dear HDFS graduate students,
I hope that you had a wonderful break, and found time for sleep, relaxation, and engagement in whatever activities bring you joy.
I wanted to write to bring up the subject of mental health, and how important it is to be aware of your own mental health and wellbeing, now and throughout graduate school. The period of personal and professional development that you are currently in is one where rates of some mental health issues increase and/or peak. Sometimes, the stress of graduate school can intensify previous mental health issues, and sometimes new issues emerge. In addition, some of the topics covered in HDFS courses can at times trigger personal issues that could bring up mental health concerns.
Your own personal wellbeing, whether physical, mental, or social, is always going to be more important than excelling in classes or getting another manuscript submitted. Do be aware of your own wellbeing, and take the time to nurture it. Monitor your own stress levels, and make sure to engage in activities that will help you alleviate some stress, whatever those activities may be for you – yoga, meditation, or mindfulness practice; exercise, long walks, or time spent in nature; reading or listening to music; spending time with friends… There is free yoga available in State College, both on campus and in town. And there are many opportunities for recreational activities on campus.
If you have concerns about your own stress levels or mental health, do seek out help. You can always talk to your adviser, to me, or to other faculty for advice, although they/I cannot serve as a professional counselor or therapist.
If you think that you would benefit from professional help, do not hesitate to take advantage of the services offered by the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center (CAPS). CAPS provides up to 6 free sessions with professional therapists on their staff. CAPS staff includes psychologists as well as psychiatrists, for those for whom medication might be helpful. CAPS also offers a number of group sessions during the semester, some of which are specifically designed for graduate students. Other helpful resources on campus include the Center for Women Students and the LGBTQA Student Resource Center. Finally, there are useful self-help resources on the CAPS website, including videos.
There are also many highly skilled therapists in the community. CAPS has a list of community-based mental health providers with current openings. I’m happy to make suggestions if you ever need such advice.
There are many useful resources for crisis situations that you should know about. The CAPS website has a comprehensive list:
There are also some hotlines for urgent situations:
Centre County CAN HELP Line: (1-800-643-5432)
Sexual assault and relationship violence hotline: (1-800-560-1637)
Centre County Women’s Resource Center: (814-234-5050)
The Meadows Psychiatric Center: (1-800-641-7529)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (1-800-273-8255)
Here are some other suggested readings if you’d like to learn more on the topic:
As always, don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions.
“The post Prioritizing wellbeing during graduate school first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on January 17, 2016.