World Suicide Prevention Day: Grad Student Mental Health Crisis

September is Suicide Prevention Month and today (the 10th) is World Suicide Prevention Day. Throughout September, health advocates, survivors, allies, and mental health organizations come together to promote suicide prevention awareness.


Picture of a white person with long brown hair wearing a green coat and blue jeans sitting facing away from the camera on a wooden pier overlooking a lake. The person in looking out into the body of water while hugging their knee.

The PhD Balance team recognizes that there is a clear mental health crisis plaguing graduate students across the globe. We are here in support of all of academia and especially those PhD students who are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, overextended, and emotionally drained. An unhealthy work-life balance is common among academic populations.


Graduate students are overworked, underpaid, and generally experience extreme levels of stress. It is not uncommon for students to be subjected to toxic work environments, bullying, and prejudice. It is easy for graduate students to feel underappreciated, unworthy, and live with a sense of not belonging to their program. In turn, this can lead to severe anxiety and depression, and a wide range of additional mental health conditions. The global pandemic has only exacerbated many of these issues. Navigating the emotional fluctuation of a graduate student’s daily life can be difficult to manage.

A report on Graduate Student Happiness and Well-Being from U.C. Berkeley found that roughly 45% of PhD students in their STEM programs were depressed. In general, graduate students are six times more apt to have feelings of depression as compared to the general population and in a recent survey of more than 6000 graduate students, it was found that 36% of them have sought help for depression and anxiety.


Unfortunately, the data on the actual topic of suicide is vague and more research is needed. A meta-analysis found the prevalence of suicidal ideation among grad students in the range of 2-12%. The underlying reasons for elevated mental health issues and suicidal ideations in academia needs a definitive reexamination.

If you are depressed, please seek help. There are numerous online resources (some are listed below), which also offer immediate help via chat and phone options. Additionally, academic campuses should offer counselling and mental health resource centres. You are NOT alone!

If you know someone who needs help, please reach out to them. It can be difficult to recognize when a friend or family member is in need. The online resources mentioned here can also help with how to identify when a friend is in need.

Suicide is not an easy topic to address, but when you, a friend, or a loved one needs support, do not hesitate to seek, or offer, help.

Resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1800-273-8255

suicidepreventionlifeline.org


List of Suicide Crisis Lines, by country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines