R U Ok? Wanna grab a coffee?

R U Ok day is still 9 months away, but I think we should be asking our fellow students this question at the  beginning of the year. Mental Health is an important issue for postgrads & feeling anxiety, stress, depression should not the accepted as the ‘norm’ throughout your PhD. Mental health can be hard to talk about and recent study showed 4 out of 10 Australians who take sick leave for depression lie about it to their bosses (read more The Hoopla here) .

There are some good blog posts on this already- see An Academic Follower of Fashion for  personal stories from other PhD students.

Many universities in Australia have free and confidential counselling available for students. If you’d like to try an online service, The MindSpot Clinic has some online assessment tools and a free 10 week treatment course. You could also try some of the strategies in Super Better  ( I found the support forum had too much spam but I like the easy, achievable actions that can change your mindset for the day). Here’s a great TED talk by Jane McGonigal the inventor of SuperBetter.

Also, most of the universities have a Postgrad Association that organises sports and leisure activities – a good way to help reduce your anxiety is to get the social support you need – participating in a Postgrad Volley Ball game and have a moan about your supervisor over coffee afterward might make it easier to manage your stress and anxiety.

If you are an Australian PhD student with a time limit – its important to keep good records of why you might not be performing (e.g due to mental health issues). Keep records of your discussions with Supervisors, seek the support of your University Counsellor or GP and don’t pretend everything is ok if it is not.  Many universities will be very supportive- but you will need some supporting documentation if, for example, you need to take a Leave of Absence.

I had my first Counselling session for 2014 last week and I’ve them booked fortnightly for the next 3 months. Admitting to myself that my levels of anxiety and stress associated with my PhD weren’t manageable by myself was so important- and its actually allowed me to get back to the business of writing my thesis.

**I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor. You should seek professional help and support if you are feeling like you could harm yourself or harm someone else. Here are some emergency numbers for Australian residents

  • Ambulance/Fire/Police – 000
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Men’s Line Australia – 1300 78 99 78
  • Salvo Care Line – 1300 36 36 22
  • Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

About Sarina Kilham

I'm a Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney. Trained as a social scientist and with a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture, I'm interested in farmer's experiences of growing feedstock for biodiesel production. My research has focused on biodiesel production in Brazil and Timor-Leste. Also on Twitter @sarinakilham and blogging at thequalitativeresearcher.net
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1 Response to R U Ok? Wanna grab a coffee?

  1. nicthornton007 says:

    Good point Sarina. I had similar mental health issues with my PhD and it took me a year and a half to twig to the fact I had depression. I wasted so much time and effort because I didn’t start my management earlier. I lost 3 years in total as it is so debilitating if we don’t get to it early enough. I’m really proud you’re talking about it, admitting that you are sick and need to get better, and youre getting support. You won’t get better unless you do!

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