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Blog post

Let’s Talk! Staying Mentally Healthy in Grad School

January 16, 2019
By GradProSkills


Every winter, Bell Canada starts a nationwide open conversation about Canada’s mental health, promoting awareness on the topic and raising funds. With Bell’s Let’s Talk day approaching on January 30th, we not only encourage your participation, but we decided to start a conversation of our own on the importance of taking care of your mental health in Grad school.

What does the research tell us?

There is much stigma around the topic of mental health in graduate school, so when discussing the subject and its effect on grad students, it is important to look at key messages from professionals and leading organizations in the field.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the issue of mental health on post-secondary students stems from the transformative experience that students face - having to quickly learn to juggle academics with major personal and financial matters in their daily lives. This challenge has led to an increased number of post-secondary students struggling with mental health problems, where “75% of first-time mental health diagnoses occur between the ages of 16 and 25.”

A recent article in the journal Nature Biotechnology titled “Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education”, reported some alarming statistics. A recent study of 2,279 individuals (90% PhD students and 10% Master’s students), from 26 countries, 234 institutions and diverse fields found “that graduate students are more than six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population.” In the study group, 41% scored as having moderate to severe anxiety and 39% scored in the moderate to severe depression range. These alarming results correlate to the difficulty achieving work/life balance in grad school and the dynamics of the supervisor/student relationship.

Other studies have flagged similar results. Two more interesting reads on mental health in Grad School are reported in the Inside Higher Ed online magazine, and written by Colleen Flaherty:

  1. A Very Mixed Record on Grad Student Mental Health
  2. Mental Health Crisis for Grad Students

Concordia’s Mental Health Resources

According to Concordia’s Health Services, “building good mental health enhances and maintains optimal health,” ultimately helping students become more likely to perform better at school.

“In the olden days, every knight knew he had to keep his weapon sharp to succeed, and survive. Graduate students are not knights, who’s tool is a sword, but they are thinkers and scholars, who’s tool is their brain.

Your brain is your tool, and your success and livelihood depends on how many brilliant ideas you can deliver! Given this, like the knight, you too need to keep your tool sharp – by getting plenty of sleep, learning how to manage stress, and adapting other strategies that you may find surprising!"

- Gaby Szabo, Concordia Health Promotion Specialist, Health Services. Gaby facilitates the GradProSkills workshop titled ‘The Healthy Mind’  (GPWL905) Learn more                       

Knowledge on mental health risks is an important first step, but it is even more important to be self-aware and seek help if needed. Be mindful and proactive in the steps you need to take to stay mentally healthy during your Grad studies at Concordia!

Here is a list of free services and resources available to you on campus:


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