Mental Health among PhD candidates

Mental Health campaign was organized by DOSZ to get to know more about mental health, theoretical information and practical tips that PhD candidates can use in your daily life to be more productive and reduce stress. The Mental Health program consisted of two parts: online Facebook campaign and three online events. The campaign and the event were developed and organized by the Mental Health Working Group in the DOSZ Ambassador System.

Getting a PhD is never easy. It is a stressful process. Mental Health and well-being today are critical. Many PhD candidates are likely to feel psychological distress or suffer a mental health disorder during their studies. A recent study showed that 42% of PhD students consider developing a mental health problem a normal part of the PhD process.

One of the DOSZ Ambassador System commitments toward the PhD community is building and advocating for better mental health conditions. For that purpose, a mental health campaign was conducted in the last three months. The goals of the campaign were to raise the awareness between Ph.D. candidates in Hungary about the importance of mental health and well-being provide them with tips and methods to increase their resilience against a backdrop of stress, uncertainty, and struggles with depression and anxiety.

A massive online Facebook campaign was established and included several posts between December 2021 and February 2022 that reached over thirty-three thousand persons. The Mental Health campaign was the first campaign of DOSZ in English. In the campaign we shared techniques, good practices; motivational posts; some interesting, attention-cathing data; some articles related to the topic; and memes reflecting on life and challenges as a doctoral candidate.

Also, a series of three online meetings was successfully delivered to over eighty participants. The online meetings covered three main topics: (1) how to seek balance in Ph.D. life, (2) how to recognize and prevent academic burnout, and (3) coping mechanisms with stress. The events were held online, in Teams. Participants could join for free, after registration.

The first workshop, named Looking for an Outcome: Balance in PhD life was organized on 18 January. On the online event the participants could hear about the different aspects of PhD life, the importance of balance, and they get to know some techniques and methods, what they can use to find their goals, narrow their interest, focus on themself – and separate enough time for all of these. The leader of the workshop was Daria Borodina, PhD candidate at Doctoral School of Education, Eötvös Loránd University, ambassador of Russia in the DOSZ Ambassador System. In the event we had 33 participants.

The second workshop had the name Academic Burnout: How to Recognize and Prevent. It was organized on 1 February. Burnout in academic life appears frequently, causing a higher risk of health problems. PhD candidates also belong to the high-risk group, but not everyone can recognize the symptoms of burnout, and even if yes, they can not cope with it. On the event it was discussed, what are the symptoms and the strategies for recovery, how can you change your lifestyle. Participants could get some keys, how to recognize their burnout symptoms, and how to deal with it. The leader of the workshop was Barreto Andrade Diego Micael, PhD candidate at Doctoral School of Health Sciences, University of Pécs, ambassador of Brasil in the DOSZ Ambassador System. In the event we had 32 participants.

The third event – Coping Mechanism with Stress – was held on 15 February. Stress can change physical condition, behavior, and performance, having a spectacular impact on PhD studies. On our online event the participants could hear about the characteristics of stress, and defence mechanism. They got some tips and techniques, which helps to be more self-reflective – and maybe also braver to talk about these issues in academic life. The leader of the workshop was Daria Borodina, PhD candidate at Doctoral School of Education, Eötvös Loránd University, ambassador of Russia in the DOSZ Ambassador System. There were 19 participants on the event.

Participants were grateful to be able to talk about these topics, which affects everyone. We share some of their feedback below:

'Personally, I reflected more on the life balance wheel, I have never done this personal exercise. Thanks a lot for tackling this part'

'It was very good to think about my true goals and what makes me happy. Thank you for this interactive workshop  ' 'Great to know more people feel the same as me during the workshop, also to realize things we need to do to overcome this situation. Thank you for this workshop!'

'These sessions based on very important issues, applying a very practical approach. In fact, it's difficult to talk about these as we haven't got used to sharing our difficulties, emotions, this reason makes your initiative absolutely essential.'

'I really liked the nice smile and kind voice of the presenter. The topics were well-built up and really professional. I could imagine that I would take part in further sessions.'

The members of the Mental Health Working Group: Daria Borodina, Barreto Andrade Diego Micael, Sara Nazarian, Feten Chihi, and Norbert Bencze.

Article by: Haneen Attaallah, DOSZ Ambassador System communication manager.