Mental Health in Academia
A synthesis of literature from various studies has shown that there is a current mental health crisis in academia with one of the highest incidences of mental illness when compared to other occupations (Lau & Pretorius, 2019). Authors state that the factors that have contributed to this mental health crisis entail the increasing pressure to compete for research funding and publish in high-impact journals, lack of work-life balance, isolation, increasing work demands with less resources, career and financial insecurity, interpersonal conflicts, and lack of support systems.
Data from a survey with 621 respondents of counseling center directors from U.S. universities paint a dire picture how stress has translated into mental health issues. Anxiety continues to be the most frequent concern among college students (48.2%), followed by stress (39.1%), depression (34.5%), suicidal ideation (25.2%), specific relationship concerns (22.9%), family concerns (21.2%), interpersonal functioning problems (18.8%), sleep problems (15.8%), and loneliness/social isolation (15.5%). A total of 25.5% of students seeking services were taking psychotropic medications (LeViness et al. 2017).
One in two Ph.D. students have experienced psychological distress and one in three are at risk of a common psychiatric disorder (Levecque et al. 2017).
Mindfulness has been identified to counter these trends, reduce perceived stress among faculty and students, and help address the mental health crisis.
Lau, R. W. K., & Pretorius, L. (2019). Intrapersonal wellbeing and the academic mental health crisis. In L. Pretorius, L. Macaulay, & B. Cahusac de Caux (Eds.), Wellbeing in doctoral education (pp. 37–45). Singapore: Springer.
Levecque, K., Anseel, F., De Beuckelaer, A., Van der Heyden, J., & Gisle, L. (2017). Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students. Research Policy, 46(4), 868–879. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2017.02.008
LeViness, P., Bershad, C., & Gorman, K. (2017). The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) annual survey: Reporting period September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016 (pp. 1–71). Retrieved from The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) website: https://www.aucccd.org/assets/2017%20aucccd%20survey-public-apr17.pdf