Academia can be overwhelmingly demanding.
Mental health struggles among students and researchers – you are not alone.
Researchers across ranks, but in particular early career researchers, are struggling. They find themselves subjected to a pressure to do more. Often they sacrifice their mental (and also physiological) health to “make it” in academia.
Precarious working conditions, competition for funding and jobs, an idealized lifestyle of overwork, the narrative “enough passion will lead to succcess”, the loss of social connections due to frequent moves, and a strong dependency from supervisors all contribute to an environment where individuals easily feel incompetent, alone, or not good enough and where bullying and abuse occur frequently. In addition, existential worries about the next job are prevalent. As a result, mental health in academia often suffers. Numerous studies and surveys (e.g. the PhDNet survey of the Max Planck Society) show poor mental health among PhD students and postdocs. If you are struggeling, know that you are not alone.
Mental health matters – academia is no exception.
Science is brain work. You need a healthy mind to live, study and work well. It is a myth that suffering is a prerequisit for success. It is neither necessary nor sufficient. Cognitive behavioral coaching and therapy provide us with many evidence-based strategies and methods to find ways to reduce stress, burnout and other psychological symptoms. E.g. it can help to stop rumination, experience more positive emotions, and to deal with anxiety and setting boundaries. More importantly, it is a place where you can look at your struggles in a protected space.
Coming from the hard sciences, I have become a psychotherapist in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to work with students and postdocs to protect and regain their mental health. When we speak about mental health in academia we often talk about prevention and how to improve working conditions. I consider learning cognitive and emotion-focused strategies an act of self-care, regardless of whether or not you suffer from a mental illness. However, if you do suffer from a mental health problem, it deserves actual treatment just like any physiological illness. This is why I offer both, coaching and therapy. Here you can learn more about the setting and my terms and conditions.
I have a PhD in Physics, worked for many years in science management and faculty recruiting as well as in career coaching. During this time, I have screened hundreds of faculty applications and participated in dozens of search committee meetings. I understand from first hand experience how much pressure ther is for students and academics and how academia works.
If you are an ISTA employee, please be informed that I only offer career counseling in that case. If you are in need of psychotherapy, I am happy to help you find a therapist.
Individual resilience cannot resolve system issues.
Finally, I would like to stress that it is absolutely true that coaching and therapy cannot change the working conditions in academia which are often the cause for a mental health condition. Change needs to be achieved via activism, policy changes and better leadership. The responsibility should not only lie with the individual. In my work, I put thus special emphasis on the differentiation between individual solutions for a client’s well-being and institutional responsibility to create a better working environment.
There is no health without mental health.
Dr. Daniela Klammer (she/her)
Psychotherapist in Training under Clinical Supervision
+43 667 6100 7167