Pursuing a PhD is an adventure: Ideally, students get to follow their personal interests and gain profound knowledge of their field. However, this time can also be emotionally and physically demanding. For example, a study in US-American grad students reports high levels of stress and burn-out, fear of failure, long and unpredictable working hours, and financial strain (Boren, 2013). This is also true for PhD students in Germany. According to a recent survey of the Max Planck PhDnet, 53% of the students surveyed suffered from at least one of the following symptoms: depression, burnout, eating disorder, chronic fatigue, sleeplessness and migraines. More than half of this group thought that these symptoms were directly related to their position as a PhD.
We are a group of PhD students at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin who self-organized in this initiative trying to provide the Berlin neuroscience community with some relief.
Through sharing resources, surveying the status quo, and organizing mental health events, we hope to promote awareness, destigmatize mental health struggles, and empower PhD students!
Some steps can be taken before things get ugly. According to the Helmholtz Juniors survey, job satisfaction and good supervision are the most important factors regarding PhD student well-being. What can you do to increase those on your own PhD journey?