An after conference thought about PhD's well being and mental health in academia. Discussion about problems linked to performing a PhD.

I went to a conference about PhD's mental health.

 

Conference about this topic aren't common. We were about 20 peoples, mostly PhDs, some Postdocs, but no PhD's supervisors or PI.

That was a good representation of the problems linked to this topic in academia: the people concerned are either afraid to come, or don't think they need it. And the supervisors and PI and that could actually help... most of the time don't really care.

Of course, they expressed the most common causes of poor mental health in PhDs: Stress, Loneliness and bad Work-Life balance.

We discussed more in details problems that can come from the outside as a new PhD:

  • The high expectation from boss and supervisor (and family sometimes)

  • The working time (expect to work full time like a Postdoc but also have to do the mandatory courses, teaching, etc...)

  • The "bad project" effect (nothing works, it's doom to fail)

  • The bully co-workers

  • The poor salary-no salary (depending on the country and the field)

  • The knowledge that only a few % of PhDs will have a fixed position in academia (future-less)

  • The frustration of not being understood (often come with the misconception of the PhD status)

  • ...

 

We also discussed problems that can come from the PhDs themself:

  • The high expectation of the academia world and what comes with it: disillusion about your project, supervisor and yourself

  • The high expectation of your own capacity: if I can't even conduct this project by myself I'm useless

  • The imposter syndrome: People are going to figure out that I don't know anything

  • The lack of social life, self-made or by too much working hours

  • The loneliness (even more when doing your PhD in a different country)

  • The culpability effect: I have a bit of social life but I should be working instead

  • Family/Friend/Love problem: being far away from your loved ones is, by itself, a cause of depression

  • ...

 

"More" importantly we discussed the fact that mental health is a Taboo by itself and that's also why PhDs encounter so much problem as:

 

  • They don't realize their actual mental health isn't good/normal

  • They are afraid to ask help and seeming weak

 

The first year I started my PhD I gained 10kg, started to be allergic to coffee (NOOOOO!!!) and at some point, had so much anxiety I had the fear to go to work... not good. Almost 1 year passed before realizing I needed help and decided to start seeing a psychologist as I wanted to express my feeling, it helped and I started to try to take more care of myself.

 

Thanks for reading and feel free to express your own issues.

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