Mental Health in Academic Research – A Systematic Problem

“In recent years, a crisis has been building in academia,” says this post on Polygeia. University counseling services report increasing demand due to rising  numbers of students with serious and complex mental health problems. From what we’ve either seen or heard from colleagues, mental health problems are very common in academia, but it is surprisingly difficult to find hard data to back this claim, especially since open discussion of these topics is socially discouraged in lab environments. A recent report that came out of Berkeley last year points to 47% of PhD and 37% of masters students scoring as depressed. While these numbers are estimates and not clinical diagnoses, the few studies available in peer-review journals produced numbers of a similar scale. In an UK study, mental health issues among academics were estimated as high as 53%, while an Australian study found that mental illness among academic staff was three to four times higher than the national average. These numbers have to be handled and reported with care, but they are really concerning and point out that this issue needs to be urgently addressed. Continue reading

Dividing and Conquering

I’ve found it quite interesting lately that a few of the students and lab heads I talk to about the issues in science immediately shut down and say, “that’s just the way science is.” Other times when discussing one issue, all the other issues inevitably come up due to their interconnectedness and we end our conversations with sighs of “there are just so many, aren’t there?”

If you’re familiar with gardening, dealing with these issues can feel like trying to remove ivy from a plot of land. You pull one strand up, and a massive tangled web that extends to the entire patch comes up with it. If you break the delicate strand, you lose the roots, and you might as well not have done the job at all. Overwhelming, right?

But like with ivy, compartmentalizing the issues in science that need fixing and maintenance as well as finding support from a team can make something daunting seem much more manageable. I’ve broadly categorized the issues not only to help people tackle them more effectively at the individual and cultural level, but also to break the misconception for a lot of these that they’re inherent to the process of doing science.

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Welcome to Labmosphere

Welcome to Labmosphere, a social experiment and resource in the making. We are currently a small team of graduate students in the academic sciences who also have a wide array of interests in psychology, mindfulness, organizational behavior, and human wellbeing and happiness. We care about our fellow man (one of the many reasons we joined scientific exploration) and dislike seeing some of our best and brightest going through difficult and stressful times.

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