Ph.D. students face significant mental health challenges

Approximately one-third of Ph.D. students are at risk of having or developing a common psychiatric disorder like depression, a recent study reports. Although these results come from a small sample—3659 students at universities in Flanders, Belgium, 90% of whom were studying the sciences and social sciences—they are nonetheless an important addition to the growing literature about the prevalence of mental health issues in academia.

One key message for scientific trainees that are struggling with these types of challenges, write co-authors Katia Levecque and Frederik Anseel of Ghent University in an email to Science Careers, is that “you are not alone.” Beyond that, the authors encourage Ph.D.

students to appreciate how important it is to take care of themselves. “Mental health problems can develop into serious threats to one’s wellbeing and career, and can have detrimental consequences in the long-term,” they write. So, if you’re struggling, it’s important to “[s]eek professional help or seek help in your personal environment, even if you think it’s probably a temporary thing.”

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