We need you!


Hi PhD pals! I need your help. I have been thinking for a little while now about how comforting, inspiring and amazing it has been to hear all of your stories. It have been so overwhelmed by the number of you who have wanted to share your stories with me and I have particularly touched by those of you who contacted me to say that, through hearing about my own experiences, you have been able to talk about your own mental health. I think that we are building a massively supportive online and I would really like to continue that.

I want your stories about academia and mental health. I think it would be really great to create a space where we can share our own experiences of mental health issues in academia and read those of others. I never cease to be surprised by the similarities between the stories that are shared with me and my own. Hearing about other students’ experiences can make us feel far less alone and help give us confidence that it is possible to do a PhD with mental health issues, given the right support. Obviously this will work much better if lots of you get involved, but I would be totally overjoyed with like 10 submissions.

Please please please send me your stories. I’m not looking for massive essays here (and goodness knows we’re all good at churning those out) but just little snippets of 200 words or so sharing your experiences of mental health issues as a PhD student or academic. Next time you are at your computer and your attention is wandering, just write me a little something instead of trawling through Buzzfeed again. All of the stories will be anonymous so you don’t have to worry about that. It would be particularly good to hear from people who have dealt with mental health issues and gone on to complete their PhDs but I’m not choosy. I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who wants to share.

I don’t have mental health issues. Can I still come to the party? You can! You can help out by sharing and retweeting this post, encouraging others to share their stories and reading them when I post them. You can also get involved by sending me a picture of your feet so I can do something lame and cheesey about standing in solidarity or something. You can send a feet picture along with your story as well if you like!


(Something a bit like this. Apologies for the slippers and jazzy leggings combo. I just got in from yoga and I’m lazy.)

Well, what are you waiting for? Get writing! You can send your stories (and pictures of your feet) to me at academicfolloweroffashion@gmail.com. I can’t wait to read them!

4 responses to “We need you!

  1. Well done for raising the topic of mental health in academia, Jessica. Both institutions and individuals need to look out for, and support, each other. However, ethically, I have concerns about your comments on individuals in your department (supervisor(s), PG convenor, other students). As you name yourself and give your location, it’s easy to work out where you are a PhD student. There is a tension between being honest and open about your own concerns and experiences and discussing other people’s experiences and actions. Perhaps you have checked with all these individuals before you have posted your blogs? If so, no problem!

  2. I think it is admirable what you are doing Jessica, and what I think you and Carol have shown here is the interesting debate about openness or confidentiality and mental health problems. I have a blog where I concentrate on positive psychology tips for wellbeing, and I am open on there about the breast cancer diagnosis I had in 2006, and the endometriosis diagnosis I had in 2010, but still private about the bi-polar diagnosis in 2009. I am a PhD student and I have been open about it with all my tutors and fellow students. I hope I haven’t experienced discrimination as a result. But I am struggling a great deal with my PhD – my Mum has just died on top of everything else (and my brother doesn’t want to announce that to the world via the internet). I feel that my self-censorship on these issues (or censorship via my brother) is to some extent restricting help I could get online. I have opened up on postgraduateforum.org, but again anonymously. I think the ’emotional rollercoaster’ that everyone apparently experiences with a PhD may not be for me and that I should be pushing to let them let me do an MPhil instead. Because of funding or perhaps because ‘they’ have more belief in me than I do at the moment, they are encouraging me to pursue my PhD – but it is just too difficult. I had a break last year and now I’m having another break – due to return in March next year. Now I’m 2 years behind the people I started with. A psychiatrist once said he’d never experienced a confident depressed person, and the PhD has been about destroying my self confidence, I’ve been thinking a long time that it’s bad for my health. But on the other hand, I’ve had breakthroughs and it would be such a waste to pack it in.
    Do you think being so open about your mental health problems has helped you? Do people think that confidentiality acts as a buffer – to protect us – or a hindrance – stops people helping us?

  3. Pingback: Why I Left Science: Project goals | a little dose of keelium·

  4. Pingback: Why I Left Science: Project goals • A little dose of keelium·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s