The Mental Health Crisis Among Postgraduate Students
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Postgraduate Mental Health
In recent years, mental illness has become a growing problem among young adults and teens. 7 in 10 young adults see anxiety and depression as one of the most pressing issues that plague their peers. Concerns about mental health are prevalent across gender, racial, and socio-economic lines in the U.S. That is roughly equal shares of young adults across various demographic groups admitting that mental health is an issue in their circles.
Contrary to what many assume, bullying, drug addiction, and alcohol consumption are not the top contributors to the mental health crisis. It is their education that is the problem. The majority of students say that they feel an increased pressure to get high marks in school. This problem even extends to post-graduate’s students. Many of them also have concerns about their mental health.
It’s gotten to the point that graduate students are six times more likely to experience depression and anxiety than everyone else. Studies show that graduate students from different areas of expertise feel overwhelmed, isolated. Some even reach a stage where they are too depressed to function. This only proves that many graduate programs take a toll on the mental health of students.
Mental Health Crisis in Post-graduate Students
Many people pursue post-graduate degrees as part of seeking greener pastures. After all, both the education system and the job market have been misleading. They made everyone believe that further education is key to more employment opportunities. A master’s degree or a Ph.D. isn’t always more valuable. It can leave students with more debt than they can pay, and no better jobs. They quickly realize this and conclude that graduate school is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
An article published on Nature pointed to a study that they conducted, revealing that there is poor mental health among graduate students in most academic settings. Factors that contribute to this include heightened insecurity about uncertain futures and the weakening belief that further education would improve their job outlook. The lack of a healthy work-life balance plays a part too. Post-graduate students have reported concerns about financial aid, expenses, and lack of funding.
With mental issues being prevalent among these students, one might think that their educators are taking a proactive approach to address the problem. Yet, some students have reported dissatisfaction with their advisors. They claimed that the faculty did very little to provide adequate support their emotional well-being. More than half of the study participants who experienced anxiety or depression did not think that their advisors were assets to their career, and even went as far as saying they felt undervalued.
To make things worse, many students try to self-medicate and resort to destructive behaviors to cope. They work themselves to the bone, isolate themselves from their peers, and rely on substances. This led to them succumbing to burnout. There are even some who admitted to working 12-hour days and binge drinking to find relief. This resulted in long-term consequences to both their physical and mental health. If the educational institutions continue to turn a blind eye and refuse to encourage self-care and offer mental healthcare assistance, adverse mental health outcomes are inevitable.
The Role of Educators and Parents
As mentors, educators should be pulling all the stops in making sure that the students are cared for. This should be done to improve their learning experience in their academe and promote mental health and well-being. Susan Bartel, an associate professor of Higher Education Leadership for Maryville University’s online doctorate in education program, emphasizes the importance of empathy. “One valuable lesson we teach in our program is understanding the perspectives of all constituents by putting yourself in the shoes of people you serve,” she explains. And this extends well beyond creating excellent opportunities for students to learn, it also involves supporting them through difficult times and helping them recognize the signs of burnout and other mental illnesses before they arise.
Educators have the responsibility to ensure a positive and safe learning environment for everyone. Due to the worsening mental health crisis, there should be immediate action for expanding access to mental healthcare and changing the system to alleviate the many stressors that contribute to the increased rates of mental illness. Given how studies indicated that students receive little support from their mentors, it would also help if the administration created structural improvements to improve advisor-advisee partnerships. Faculty members who are not doing their jobs must be held accountable, and students who come forward about these issues should be protected. Moving forward, required training for faculty is also recommended to improve their awareness of mental health and sensitivity.
Graduate Student Mental Health
While post-graduate students are independent and self-sufficient, their parents should continue keeping in touch with them. Maintaining a connection and fostering a healthy relationship is vital. Parents will be able to identify potential problems better before they escalate. It also allows them to offer support to help manage their child’s condition.
If the student is struggling, it will help if the parents reach out to the university’s health center. If there is one, a mental health support service would be even better. And if possible, both the parent and the student should meet with a staff member to identify what type of support is available. They should know what kind of counselors they have on board, how often the student can make use of the resources, and more. If the student needs treatment, parents should be proactive enough to find a local mental health specialist. University counseling services can only do so much. Mental health providers can address whatever needs to be solved.
There is less stigma surrounding mental health now compared to the past. Still, educators and parents must take an extra step in ensuring that anxiety and depression will no longer be a pressing concern for students. For more resources about addressing the severe outcomes of depression, check out our Suicide Prevention and Hotline to Chat with a Treatment Center post.
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