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Home » Discover Rackham » Rackham Launches Task Force on Graduate-Student Mental Health

Rackham Graduate School is pleased to announce the creation of the Rackham Mental-Health Task Force to better support the well-being and success of graduate students at the University of Michigan.

Recent research shows approximately half of all graduate students experience psychological distress, with a higher prevalence of mental-health problems than among the highly educated general population. A recent study of U-M graduate students revealed that one in four experience significant symptoms of a mental health problem such as major depression, severe anxiety, disordered eating, or suicidal thoughts. In addition to the personal toll they exact, these mental-health challenges reduce graduate students’ productivity. Another survey saw four in 10 graduate students report that mental or emotional health negatively affected their academic performance over the course of a four-week period.

The Rackham task force brings together faculty, graduate students, mental-health professionals, and other staff members to explore and expand ways to support graduate students’ mental health.

“Mental health has emerged as one of the most critical issues affecting graduate students,” says Rackham Dean Mike Solomon. “As we take new steps to address it, we look forward to working with faculty, staff, and student partners across campus to ensure our approach incorporates the full range of perspectives on this important topic.”

The task force is led by Meghan Duffy, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a 2017-2018 public-engagement fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Duffy received the President’s Award for Public Impact in 2017 in recognition of her public-engagement and outreach efforts around science and diversity.

“There is widespread recognition that we need to do more to support graduate student mental health and well-being,” Duffy says. “I’m incredibly excited that this task force allows us to tackle this issue at multiple levels, from individuals through graduate programs and on up to Rackham.”

In its first year, the task force will work to identify changes that graduate programs, faculty members, and individual graduate students can make to improve graduate-student mental health. The team hopes to identify two to three vital behaviors that could be adopted by members of each of these three categories, as well as to develop specific resources that would help implement them.

As the task force moves into its second year, it will shift its focus to support individuals and graduate programs as they implement the recommendations developed in the first. Over the course of its activities, the task force may also identify larger scale, long-term changes to better support graduate-student health. While outside the scope of the task force itself, these changes could become the focus of future endeavors.

As the Rackham Mental-Health Task Force begins its work, they are asking for input from the wider U-M community. If you have ideas or suggestions regarding the focus of the task force, or how the team can best serve graduate students at U-M, please send an email to rackham-mhtf-contact@umich.edu.

The full task force membership includes:

  • Sara Abelson, Ph.D. Candidate, Health Behavior and Health Education; Lead for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Projects, Healthy Minds Network
  • Robert Adams, Associate Professor of Architecture; Associate Professor of Art and Design; Director of University of Michigan Initiative on Disability Studies
  • Amy Cohn, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering
  • Patricia Deldin, Professor of Psychology; Professor of Psychiatry; Associate Director of University of Michigan Depression Center
  • Mary Jo Desprez, Director of Wolverine Wellness
  • Meghan Duffy, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Heather Fuchs, Manager, Associate Deans’ initiatives, Rackham Graduate School
  • Janelle Goodwill, Ph.D. Candidate, Joint Program in Social Work and Psychology
  • Daniel Eisenberg, S. J. Axelrod Collegiate Professor of Health Management and Policy
  • Laura Monschau, Embedded Psychologist, Rackham Graduate School
  • Lindsey Mortenson, Medical Director of University Health Service and Psychiatry Clinic Chief
  • Darlene Ray-Johnson, Resolution Officer, Rackham Graduate School
  • Gina Shereda, STEM Professional Development Program Manager, Rackham Graduate School
  • Daphne Watkins, Professor of Social Work, Director of the Curtis Center
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