Graduate School Can Have Terrible Effects on People’s Mental Health
This week, Alia Wong wrote about a new study showing that Ph.D. candidates suffer from anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation at astonishingly high rates.
I found your article to expose the naked truth of grad school: an intellectual perversion that relies on its own unsatisfactory teleological reasoning. Compounding the inherent difficulties of grad school is the vast departure from normal life. While most peers are exploring the world, getting married, and enjoying a beer at 5 o’clock, grad students are incessantly tethered to their work, whether real or imagined. Every graduate student understands that he or she must forfeit something, but time, energy, motivation, and freedom to explore and personally develop are only the beginning of what is sacrificed in the pursuit of something greater. While these conditions are prohibitive, many still make it through. Makes you contemplate who doesn’t make it, and where society might be with their brilliance, creativity, and passion in this world.
Your article about graduate school—like many similar articles—ignores a key problem: inequality between and within graduate programs.
First, inequality in experiences between graduate programs plays a key role in students’ mental health and well-being. My friends (at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke) and I are advantaged by attending well-regarded and well-funded institutions. Not only do we have advantages on the job market, we also have more financial and social resources during our graduate career relative to students at lower-tiered universities. I can only imagine that this inequality between graduate programs leads to different types and levels of stress. For example, although I find graduate school stressful, my concern is not about unemployment or underemployment upon completion, but rather if I can get an “ideal” postdoctoral fellowship and long-term job.