Strategies in Improving Support For Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being

May 12, 2021

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Title: Supporting Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-being Evidence-Informed Recommendations For The Graduate Community

Author: Council of Graduate Schools and the Jed Foundation

The Council of Graduate Schools and the Jed Foundation released a new report that highlights current graduate student mental health and well-being needs. The report provides key evidence-informed recommendations to improve graduate student mental health and well-being for the following stakeholders:

  1. University presidents, provosts, and other senior leaders must be explicit in their prioritization of mental health and well-being to ensure institutional values and resource allocation follow this in action. Senior leaders should examine and consider ways in which systems and processes can work to prioritize mental health and well-being, such as modifying tenure and promotion processes to consider work/life balance and breaking down hyper-competitive campus cultures.
  2. Graduate deans should embed graduate student mental health and well-being strategies and resources in onboarding materials for new graduate faculty and program directors. In addition, revisions of graduate student leave policies that may negatively impact graduate student mental health and well-being should be made.
  3. Graduate program directors and department chairs should collaborate with faculty and institutional leaders to develop a comprehensive graduate student orientation that provides access to resources that support student mental health and well-being. Similarly, these resources should be amplified during major program milestones, (e.g. comprehensive exam, defenses, etc.) as proactive measures in supporting graduate student mental health and well-being.
  4. Graduate faculty must be trained and made aware of how to support graduate students’ mental health and well-being concerns and address them by fostering environments that promote the importance of work/life balance and self-care. Faculty need to be transparent and have realistic expectations for their students.
  5. Graduate students are often the first to notice that their peers need help. Thus, being aware of campus mental health and well-being resources is just as important among graduate students as they can help a peer and themselves. Similar to faculty, graduate students should practice the principles of self-care and compassionate mentoring for other graduate and undergraduate students they serve.
  6. Funding agencies are catalysts in academia; thus, they must incentivize and prioritize work on practices to mitigate graduate student stress, especially for underrepresented and underserved groups. Additionally, agencies should examine how their research funding may exacerbate hyper-competitiveness and graduate faculty and postdoc stress.

More in-depth recommendations can be found in chapter 3 of the report.

Ángel Gonzalez

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