Report Outlines How Institutions Can Support the Mental Health of Graduate Students

Report Outlines How Institutions Can Support the Mental Health of Graduate Students

2021-05-03 21:04:19

Today's graduate students face multiple stressors that require thoughtful and comprehensive attention.

Those are the findings of a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and The Jed Foundation (JED), which provides a framework for individual and collective action in support of the mental health and well-being of masters and doctoral students.

Dr. Nancy Roy

“Supporting the Mental Health and Well-Being of Graduate Students: Evidence-Based Recommendations for the Graduate Community” is the result of a 22-month project that began prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has undoubtedly led to additional stress and mental health consequences, which are taken into account.

“We already knew there was growing concern about the mental health and well-being of graduates,” said Dr. Suzanne Ortega, president of CGS. "What we quickly learned is that COVID, the police killings and the anti-Blackness waves really added to the stress people were feeling."

Information was collected from graduate deans, graduates, student affairs professionals, representatives of the disciplinary association and researchers. The CGS / JED researchers developed a questionnaire on institutional practices and policies related to the support of the mental health and well-being of graduates.

The latest questionnaire was sent to 780 US and Canadian CGS members or affiliates in the spring and summer of 2020 and 241 valid answers (31%) were received. 72% of the respondents were from public institutions and 11% were from US institutions serving minorities.

Ortega said the most direct way to address stresses felt specifically by graduate students of color is to provide open and honest space to discuss the challenges and respond quickly to situations that can increase their stress levels and mental health. can influence.

"There are so many levels at which racism and anti-blackness and structured inequality occur that senior administrators and faculty mentors need to be really alert to the many different ways individuals are affected – overt acts of racism, microaggressions," Ortega said. “I am especially moved to hear students talk about the impact of color invisibility, the idea that teachers and programs are doing their best to be color blind and that that is not a recognition of the experience and richness and contribution that a person delivers to the program. "

The report offers both a framework for action and concrete recommendations for higher management, deans, program directors, department chairmen, graduates and graduates.

Project team member Dr. Nance Roy, JED's chief clinical officer, said it was important to include information and recommendations for the various stakeholders in graduate education, adding that it was also crucial to address the needs of traditionally marginalized groups. including Black. Latinx, First Generation, LGBTQ and Students with Intersectional Identities.

"Many schools do not include mental health in their overall strategic plan for the institution," said Roy. The report, she said, calls for mental health identification in the strategic plan, which will guide the allocation of resources.

“We tried to frame the report with a sense of urgency surrounding the need to do two things: (1) respond to students in extreme need … and (2) prevention. How are we going to create healthier environments that reduce hyper-competitiveness and unnecessary stress? Asked Ortega.

One of the recommendations for presidents, provosts and other senior leaders is to explore ways to reduce hyper-competitive campus cultures, while prioritizing diversity, equality and inclusion and creating campus spaces where graduate students can openly discuss challenges and crises.

The report recommends that deans graduate include training in mental health and wellness for new faculty and program directors and allocate funding for wellness days and mental health campaigns.

The report encourages the graduate faculty to be clear about student expectations, including recognizing the need for self-care.

& # 39; We must ensure that we do not place the responsibility solely on graduate students, & # 39; Roy said. "We absolutely need their voice to have effective programs or policies or advocacy events, but we can't expect them to do all the work."

Ortega hopes this report will spark conversations and facilitate action to optimize graduate performance while relieving unproductive stress. She said leaders and thinkers, including funding agencies, should explore ways to measure the contributions of science and science as not just the amount of knowledge in a field, but rather the ability to bring about change or solve systemic problems.

"There will always be some level of competition, which is probably healthy," said Ortega. “What's not healthy is the kind of competition that makes it all for me and nothing for you. That does not give the opportunity to share ideas, to propose things differently together and to work together. "

Since the report was published, the graduate deans of more than 150 institutions have endorsed the principles and committed to concrete action for the coming academic year.

"I hope each (stakeholder) finds something practical that they can do and begins the process of talking, formulating, planning and executing it," said Ortega. "We have deliberately tried to create ideas that will be transformative, but not so ambitious as to overwhelm you."


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