While many campuses have bolstered mental health support and promotion broadly in recent years, graduate students have too often been overlooked. Studies have shown that graduate students are six times more likely than the general population to experience depression and anxiety—but graduate students are rarely the focus of our outreach efforts. And in a recent survey, only 58 percent of institutions said they had a plan to promote the mental health and well-being of graduate students. Below, we share two innovative ways to promote and support graduate student mental health.
The Graduate Student Wellness Initiative at Montana State University aims to increase awareness of and foster peer discussions about well-being. It focuses on four components of graduate student wellbeing: physical and mental wellbeing, basic needs, community and mentoring, and career fulfillment.
As part of the initiative, a group of graduate students serve as Wellness Champions to promote awareness of mental health resources among graduate students in their departments. Wellness Champions host health promotion and education activities for their departments, connect newly admitted students to department expectations and resources, and continuously update peers on student health and wellness services throughout the year. The program promotes greater mental health awareness among graduate students and encourages utilization of the various wellness resources the university has available.
Wellness champion responsibilities and perks
Host and facilitate health promotion and education activities for their departments
Connect newly admitted students to department expectations and available resources
Update peers on student health and wellness services and resources throughout the year
Receive a $500 stipend for serving as a Wellness Champion
Alternatively, Simon Fraser University promotes well-being among graduate students by targeting graduate students serving as teaching assistants (TAs). The Graduate TA Well-Being Project recruits TAs interested in receiving and promoting well-being tips in their classrooms. The TAs attend a well-being workshop to learn about mental health strategies and university resources and receive weekly emails that outline well-being exercises to try in class, as well as tips for TAs’ personal wellness. You can see the content of the weekly emails here. The project benefits both the individual teaching assistants, who receive ideas and resources to support their own mental health, and the undergraduates that they teach.
Sample weekly email
Self-compassion is about giving ourselves the same kindness that we would give to a friend or loved one.
Tip for you:
- Try a guided self-compassion meditation by the world’s leading expert on the topic, Kristin Neff.
Tip for your students:
- Play this short video to start your class this week about how to be a friend to yourself, developed by The School of Life.
Share your reflections with the TA/TM Well-being Community by responding to this question:
- Describe a time when compassion from a friend, family member or colleague helped you through a challenge of setback.
Learn more: Podcast: Quieting your inner critic (15 minutes)
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Want to learn more about partnering with faculty and academic colleagues on well-being initiatives?
Get EAB's recommendations on expanding well-being initiatives through faculty partnerships.