GradPSYCH - January 2012 - (Page 28)
Up to a third of all graduate students are coping with mental health problems alongside the demands of school. To whom can they turn for help?
by cassaNDra WiLLyarD he last six years of graduate school haven’t been easy for Gretchen Foster*, who describes herself as a “high-achiever who wants to do everything right.” Her clinical psychology program was exceedingly competitive, and she had trouble figuring out the complex politics of her department. Foster often had more work than she could handle, so she had to let some assignments go unfinished. And being new to the area, she had few friends outside of the department. Those issues might sound familiar to many graduate students, but they were especially trying for Foster, who was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at age 17. “I would push myself really hard and feel sort of like I had exhausted my supply of energy,” she says. Medication helped her cope, but some days the anxiety overwhelmed her. “I would just have to go home and give up the day and know that there was no way I would be able to get work done,” she says. Foster feared that those lost days would cause her to fall behind her peers, and she felt frustrated with herself. Trying to handle grad school’s heavy workload while still having a social life and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
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can be enough to stress anyone out, says John C. Norcross, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania who studies self-care and personal therapy among psychologists. These challenges can be especially daunting for students suffering from a mental illness, he notes. “Most studies of full-time doctoral students show they are routinely working 60-plus hours [a week],” he says. “And when you’re working that many hours, self-care tends to plummet.” Just how prevalent mental health problems are among graduate students is an open question. Only a few surveys have been conducted, and the magnitude of the problem appears to vary from school to school, depending in part on how they define mental health issues. A 2008 survey at the University of California–Irvine, for example, found 17 percent of students reported having a serious mental disorder and nearly 30 percent reported having a mental health concern that affected their well-being or academic performance. A survey from 2006 at Berkeley found that 45 percent of graduate students polled said they had a mental health issue that affected their well-being or academic performance, and almost 10 percent of respondents reported they had considered
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of GradPSYCH - January 2012
GradPSYCH - January 2012
Psychology grad school enrollment drops, despite record numbers of applicants
Students leave their iPods at home during ‘crunch time’
Hot careers: Video game design and development
Friends and co-workers
Time to bail?
Scaling Mount Publication
Need to heal thyself?
Matters to a Degree
Power up your PowerPoint
Dissertations vs. diapers
Searching for answers
Jobs, internships, postdocs and other opportunities
The Back Page
GradPSYCH - January 2012