Ph.D. students face significant mental health challenges

Levecque and Anseel point out that small steps such as facilitating work-life balance or “offering PhD students clear and full information on job expectations and career prospects, both in and outside academia,” could have a significant positive impact.

One message for PIs is that “investing in their own leadership competencies could really make a difference” for Ph.D. students, the authors add. They encourage PIs to take the issue seriously and learn how to spot signs of potential emotional distress. Gail Kinman, a professor at the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom who acted as a reviewer for the paper, agrees.

“PIs should look out for students who isolate themselves, who seem anxious and withdrawn, who are not meeting deadlines.Nobody would expect a PI to be able to diagnose mental health problems but they should be able to spot changes in their students and have the knowledge required to refer them for support,” she writes in an email to Science Careers.

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