Doing a Doctorate with Depression

Caution: All discussion is based on personal not professional experience

Depression in Academia – its a common occurrence, a PhD breakdown is so recognisable as to be cliché. I wondered as I battled through my doctorate is there something about academics or academia that make people more susceptible? Is there a variation across disciplines? What difference does it actually make?

A relatively quick search across the web makes a number of key points: a) statistics on depression and other mental health issues amongst graduate students are pretty scary b) Certain attitudes, perceptions and habits amongst students (especially at post-grad level) and staff are probably contributing c) Researchers are starting to really talk about it  (e.g. this blog post.. and this series of articles).
Mental health issues effect 1 in 4 people in the UK in every year, about 9% of the population meet the criteria for mixed anxiety and depression at any time so statistically plenty of people in any university will be suffering and it seems logical to both consider it and to have a strategy for managing it because it isn’t going to go away.

Graduate students are increasingly expected to jump through performance and development hoops and teach courses whilst writing and all with little hope of making it into academia (have you read the internet – apparently no ever makes it and its completely pointless). Imposter syndrome is widespread, pressure to perform is never-ending and supervisors are often overworked with little time to dedicate to their own research let alone engage with helping students find new pathways and networks or notice when they start to lag. As Over-achieving Perfectionists who spend a lot of time indoors and keep odd hours we are perhaps obviously at risk.

What then?
Well how about education? I don’t just mean telling people about the signs, symptoms and treatments but about how it effects studying….
I wrote some stuff whilst I was still actually going through the steps. (Attached to this page)
It is also worth checking out PhD(isabled).


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