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Depression During PhD Studies

According to one study, nearly half of PhD students suffer from depression, writes Jennifer Walker at Quartz, but it's an issue that rarely comes up.

Walker recounts her own story of dealing with depression during her graduate studies. "The days I spent pursuing my PhD in physics were some of my darkest," she writes. "It wasn't the intellectual challenges or the workload that brought me down; it was my deteriorating mental health. I felt unsupported, isolated, and adrift in uncertainty."

The culture in academia, she notes, means that many students keep their problems under wraps, as they can be viewed as a sign of weakness. Further, she adds that long hours in the lab may feed into a sense of isolation.

"The issues that affect students in general, which could also factor in for PhD students, is living independently and having independent work," says Anoushka Bonwick from the UK charity Student Minds. PhD students also have to deal with stress related to "uncertainty about the future, such as funding for research and what they are going to do after a PhD."

Walker adds, though, that groups like Student Minds and Active Minds and the Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program in the US are collaborating with schools to raise awareness about mental health issues on campus.

"Academia is understanding, but perhaps too accepting, that everyone has problems," a PhD student in biology who has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression tells Walker. "Just because many people do have mental health problems, it's not OK that that's 'how it is.'"

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