Encountering setbacks while gaining crucial research skills, struggling to keep up in that one class where you have no prior background, fumbling your way around a new campus during a conference, and preparing last minute for group meeting presentations — these are just some of the common day-to-day grad school challenges. The types of challenges we are very willing to vent about to a friend, fellow grad student in our group, or even a relative.
But how many of us talk about the deeper insecurities that arise or get exacerbated because of those daily pressures? The incompetence we feel when trying to acquire all the relevant skills at once? Our mental state when we wake up after a late night in lab and barely have time to compose our thoughts before rushing off to class? Our constantly heightening anxiety levels about meeting our research community’s expectations?
The stressors that grad school students face on a daily basis can often result in serious long-term problems with their mental health. Unfortunately, these are not yet common topics of conversation among graduate students and their fellow colleagues. However, the benefits of having such conversations — of reaching out for help and advice in a time of need — are potentially life-changing. Perhaps it is time to change the trend?
In this special issue of the Grad Blog, we publish four posts from MIT graduate students, who share their stories of daily struggles, reaching out for help, and bravery and strength in a time of weakness. We hope that this collection inspires you - whether you are a fellow graduate student, a prospective student, or a casual reader of the blog - to put yourself first. We hope it inspires you to talk to a colleague or a friend who seems a little bit down. We hope that some of the kindness and openness shown by the authors gains a place in the daily life of our readers, too, whether it is cheering up a friend or reaching out to a close colleague.
Without further ado, please read on to the four wonderful blog posts in this special issue:
1. Overcoming Anxiety (by Jessica D.)
2. Surviving Grad School for the Strong of Mind (by Swanny L.)
3. Taking Engineering Too Far (by Sarah G.)
4. If Something Feels Wrong, Speak Up (by Alyssa R.)
Below you may find the resources for support on campus available to MIT graduate students, which the authors of the post as well as many others have found helpful:
MIT Mental Health & Counseling
Best route to contact them is to call.
During business hours: (617)-253-2916
After hours: (617)-253-4481
A graduate student group that provides peer support for all graduate students across the Institute.
Best route to contact them is to walk in during office hours.
Thursdays from 1-2pm in 4-146 — no sign up required.
The iREFS will immediately take you out to coffee for a confidential conversation (or refer you to departmental REFS if your department has them).
And here are federal US resources for off-campus support (we also encourage you to check the mental health resources in your area):
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat
SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services) National Helpline
If you have feedback about this issue, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care!
MIT Grad Blog Editors