Required Reading - This is Your Mind on Grad School

May 6, 2014

The Berkeley Science Review just published an excellent article on graduate student mental health at Berkeley. It is entitled “This is Your Mind on Grad School.” If you have any connection to higher education, academic culture, public health, mental heath or another human who is pre-, mid-, or post- grad school : read it. Full disclosure, the authors of this excellent piece are friends of mine. Denia, in particular, is one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world.

Close to Home

In grad school, I had an excellent advisor and was part of many supportive communities. For this reason, my experience was relatively quite positive. However, even the best graduate experiences are punctuated by some difficulty. The first sentence of Denia and Sebastian’s artcle punched me right in the gut:

“Graduate school is the first time that you really fail, and really feel like a failure in the one thing that you are really completely invested in.”

The rest of the first paragraph just kept punching. The sentiments of total strangers echoed perfectly the graduate experiences of uncountably many of my colleagues and close friends. It went like this:

“When I think about my years as a graduate student at Berkeley, I think of days filled with a vague, ever-present cloud of guilt and anxiety,” describes another former student. “Most days in lab were spent surrounded by brilliant people striving for something great rather than by supportive people looking to facilitate each other’s growth.” A current graduate student echoes that “there is a deep, pervasive anxiety that seeps into every day of your life, a constant questioning of your capability, intelligence, and whether or not you are cut out to be here.” Another former student says, “It took me many years to realize that ‘normal’ for many grad students means deeply—and secretly—depressed.”

What to Do

The article gets more effective in the paragraphs that follow, of course, when it introduces some really interesting data, an analysis of likely causes, an assessment of relevant efforts on campus, and resources of note.

I won’t spoil it for you. Go forth and check it out . The interviews and the data are fascinating, the writing is great, and the problem is real.



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This work by Katy Huff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Based on a work at