The latest issue of C&E News (Sept. 14, 2015), the American Chemical Society’s news magazine, contains an article with the intriguing title, “Opening Up About Stress in Graduate School.” It almost goes without saying that the opportunity to do graduate-level research in your profession is incredibly rewarding. It’s tempting to think, therefore, that whatever the personal costs of this education might be, they must be worth it, but that is an open question. As the article points out:
According to a 2011 survey by the nonprofit group Grad Resources, 43% of U.S. graduate students who participated reported experiencing more stress than they could handle. And a 2014 study conducted by the Graduate Assembly of the University of California, Berkeley, found that 47% of UC Berkeley Ph.D. students who responded to the survey reached the threshold considered to be depressed.
A few voices from the C&E News article:
“I had a very difficult time seeing myself in a positive light [during graduate school],” Karen Chiang, Ph.D.
“The impact of grad school stress on mental health is something that nearly everyone experiences, but it’s never really talked about openly, for fear of perceived weakness.” Vinylogous blog
“Even the most confident among us are prone to anxiety and worry in graduate school.” Chemjobber blog
“I was just trying to be everything to everybody, and what started happening was that I couldn’t sleep anymore. I was just worrying all night long. That was the most aggravating thing in the world, and I didn’t know how to deal with it.” Casey Schwarz, Ph.D.
Read the rest of the article to learn how graduate students can feel stigmatized for speaking up, and how some very experienced advisers can now look back at their careers and wish that they had provided better support for struggling graduate students.