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Building a Community Around Mental Illness

Meet this week's Grad Chat guest: Susanna L Harris, PhD!!!

text reads Building a Community Around Mental Illness, # Grad Chat from PhD Balance. There are two headshots one of Fay Lin the host & one of Susanna Harris, PhD

Hi! I founded PhD Balance in 2018 as a grad student. Let’s talk about it! My name is Susanna Harris, PhD (she/her, @susannalharris) and I graduated from UNC at Chapel Hill last spring with a PhD in microbiology and immunology. Being PhDone feels great.

During my fourth year of grad school, I read the now-famous Nature Biotech article “Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education and learned that up to 40% of graduate students were dealing with signs and symptoms of mental illness. This was both shocking and unsurprising to me - I’d dealt with chronic depression and anxiety throughout my life and had struggled immensely in the year prior to the article release, but I’d always thought that this was maybe a 1-in-50 or 1-in-20 students thing. Certainly not 1-in-3.

I was thrilled to know that so many people would understand what I was going through on a personal level. But I was also angry that nobody had told me about this before. These stats actually weren’t new at all. They just weren’t shared in a way I’d seen or identified with. The statistics and op-eds failed to show us how those students struggling with mental illness could be the same ones as we extolled for excelling and “being strong.” I’d never heard about how a student could be both.

I’m taking over the account today to chat about the process and experiences of building PhD Balance - this is actually really funny to me because I created the page three years ago and haven’t had access for some time.

Ask whatever questions you have in the comments, and I’ll answer them either in the stories or in the Grad Chat with Fay on Saturday!


You can find out more about Susanna on her Twitter (@susannalharris) and Instagram (@susannalharris) accounts.

Susanna will be taking over our Instagram account today, before being our Grad Chat tomorrow to talk about Building A Community Around Mental Illness. You can join the Youtube Livestream Saturday (04/03) at 3 pm Eastern/12 pm Pacific using this link!

Alternatively, you'll be able to catch up on the episode on the NEW Grad Chat podcast published next Tuesday (04/06) here!


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