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Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being

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.

Rackham Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being

The committee hopes to shift the focus from being primarily on whether students are making progress towards their degree. Instead, we call on Rackham Graduate School and graduate programs to prioritize graduate-student health and well-being alongside academic success. In promoting and prioritizing student health, we emphasize the World Health Organization definition of health: a state of physical, mental, and social well-being.

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).

Committee Members

We have assembled a diverse, multidisciplinary committee made up of faculty, staff, mental health professionals, and graduate students.

  • Kim Elliott, Office of Academic Programs/Chief Enrollment Management, School for Environment and Sustainability
  • Jordan Funk, Coordinator, Services for Students with Disabilities
  • Ann Jeffers, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chair, Rackham Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being
  • Janet Jansen, Health Educator, Faculty & Academic Partnerships, Wolverine Wellness
  • Ramaswami Mahalingam, Department of Psychology and Barger Leadership Institute, Professor and Director, Barger Leadership Institute
  • Mallory Martin-Ferguson, Director, Graduate Student and Program Consultation Services, Rackham Graduate School
  • Ann Miller, Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
  • LaNeisha Murphy, Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (OGPS), University of Michigan School of Medicine, Mental Health & Wellness Counselor
  • Akilah Patterson, School of Public Health, Graduate Student
  • Rosemary Perez, Associate Professor of Education, School of Education
  • Peter Railton, LSA Philosophy, Arthur F Thurnau Professor, Gregory S Kavka Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy, John Stephenson Perrin Professor and Professor of Philosophy, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
  • Elizabeth Rohr, Well-Being Advocate, Academic Program Manager, Rackham Graduate School
  • Catherine Sanok (ex officio), Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Initiatives, Rackham Graduate School
  • Megan Tompkins-Stange, Ford School of Public Policy, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy
  • Andrea Valenzuela, Graduate student, Chemical Biology
  • Rachelle Wilcox, Physician, University Health Service

Advisory Group

  • Ethriam Brammer, Assistant Dean, DEI Implementation Lead, Rackham Graduate School
  • Beth Cable, Student Success Coach, School of Public Health
  • Angie Farrehi, Director of CARE Center, College of Engineering
  • Patty Griffin, Director, Housing Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution and COVID Response, University Housing
  • Kate Hagadone, Mental Health and Wellness Counselor, Medical School
  • Paula Hathaway, Manager of Graduate Education, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
  • Matt Irelan, Graduate Program Coordinator, Industrial Operation Engineering
  • Jennifer Nguyen, Student Services Supervisor, Linguistics
  • Joy Pelke, Student Engagement and Academic Partnerships Assistant Director, Wolverine Wellness
  • Elizabeth Rohr, Well-Being Advocate, Academic Program Manager, Rackham Graduate School
  • Ida Faye Webster, Director, Rackham Program Review
  • Christie Zablocki, Academic Coach, Academic Support & Access Partnerships (ASAP)
  • Joseph Zichi, Health & Wellness Collective Impact Lead, Wolverine Wellness

Supporting Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being

Graduate school was already challenging and stressful for many students, and recent events have exacerbated existing stressors and added new ones. The Rackham Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being has created this resource to summarize the major stressors students are facing, and to provide guidance on principles, approaches, and strategies that mentors and graduate programs can use as they support students during these extremely stressful times.

The Well-Being Advocate Program

Part of Rackham’s Graduate Student and Program Consultation Services office (GSPCS), the Well-Being Advocate Program works with faculty and staff in academic departments to provide support for graduate student mental health and well-being at the program level.

Reports of the Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force

As mental health challenges continue to pose difficulties for graduate student health, well-being, and academic progress, Rackham formed the Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force in June 2019 to identify and implement specific changes in the U-M graduate student experience. Their reports outline recommendations to better support graduate student mental health at individual, program, and institutional levels, as well as a call on Rackham and individual graduate programs to prioritize graduate student mental health and well-being alongside academic success