•First step is to be honest with where you're at.
•One should always seek help.
Poor mental health is an issue among many PhD and postgraduate students. Financial burden, hostile academia, family, red tape, tough job market, no proper career guidance among others result in mental health difficulties. Checking in with yourself regularly and being honest about where you’re at is an important first step.
It’s unrealistic to expect that you’re going to feel fantastic all the time. A PhD is hard: it is normal to feel stressed, worried or overwhelmed sometimes. The key is to recognise how you’re feeling early and start taking active steps before it progresses into something more serious.
Depression affects 350 million people around the world and is the leading cause of disability globally, according to the World Health Organization. Not everyone feels comfortable talking to their superiors, but they should see a professional. If you think you’re struggling, that’s a good reason to get help, and if one therapist doesn’t seem like a good fit, find another. Supervisors need comprehensive, compulsory training to identify, assist and understand symptoms of mental-health problems.
Universities need to make sure the mental health services they admirably make available to undergraduates also reach graduate students and postdocs. And academia must learn to respect the work-life balance that many researchers struggle to find. Find out what resources are available to you and develop a plan about how to access them if needed. Use this plan and to ask for help early. It is often much easier to solve a problem before it grows.
Taking steps to keep good mental health during your PhD can help you stay on track and reach your goals, maintain your motivation, and maybe even enjoy the process.
PhD student, University of Nairobi