Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force
Rackham’s Mental Health and Well-Being (MHW) Committee is focused on advocating for the mental health and well-being of graduate students, including ensuring that graduate student mental health and well-being are prioritized by Rackham and individual graduate programs. The MHW Committee is working to implement the recommendations of the Rackham Graduate School’s Task Force on Graduate Student Mental Health (which ran from 2019-2021) and is also developing resources that departments and graduate programs can use to promote graduate student mental health and well-being. The MHW Committee, and its associated Advisory Group, will also work to identify emerging issues, to evaluate potential resources and changes, and to ensure that efforts within Rackham are well-integrated with those elsewhere at the university.
This work is urgently needed to better support the health and well-being of our students. Many graduate students face mental health challenges such as major depression, severe anxiety, disordered eating, and/or suicidal thoughts. A recent meta-analysis found that 24 percent of Ph.D. students showed clinically significant symptoms of depression, and 17 percent showed clinically significant symptoms of anxiety (Satinsky et al. 2021 Scientific Reports). This situation requires us to critically examine structures that can be changed to better support graduate student mental health and well-being.
Supporting graduate student mental health and well-being is not only the right thing to do, but also will promote academic success and long-term health of students. Well-being and academic performance are interdependent and dynamic: four in ten graduate students reported that mental or emotional health affected their academic performance in the previous four weeks (Eisenberg et al. 2007 Am. J. Orthopsychiatry).
Overall, supporting graduate student mental health and wellness is an essential component of Rackham’s mission to advance excellence in graduate education, to cultivate a vibrant and diverse student community, and to impact the public good through scholarship. The MHW Committee and MHW Committee Advisory Group are eager to take on this work.