It’s time to end the academic culture that says working yourself to sickness means you’re just working hard enough. It’s time to end the culture that says taking time for yourself and your own health comes at the expense of doing good work. It’s time to end the culture that says sleep deprivation, anxiety attacks, and binge drinking are just part of the game. It’s time to end the culture that says if you’re not getting along with your mentor, then it’s all your fault. It’s time to end the culture that says advisors and faculty don’t have to take responsibility for the health of their students. It’s time to end the culture that says seeking help means you’re weak, or a bad researcher.
I’m not afraid to admit that this is an issue that touched my life during my Ph.D. Thankfully I had amazing friends and family outside my program to help me through tough times. But I know that not everyone has a support system like mine. I also watched in sadness when, after a fellow Ph.D. student committed suicide, our program, university, and health services did nothing to acknowledge that it happened, or that the culture of academia could have contributed to it, and (as far as any of us have been able to tell), has done little if anything to stop it from happening again.
Some graduate programs are putting better student support systems in place, and for every bad advisor we can find an exception that cares and helps their students to the utmost of their ability. But academia, overall, still possesses a culture of acceptance and ignorance when it comes to mental health issues, especially in graduate programs.
It’s time to end that culture.