A Letter by the Helmholtz-Juniors
Dear all, October is officially a mental health awareness month. In order to raise awareness among the doctoral researchers, Helmholtz Juniors have prepared a series of informative letters to be sent out each Thursday in the course of October. However, since we – the team of representatives of the doctoral researchers at HZB – believe that this is a topic concerning everyone, we have decided to share some of this information with the whole HZB community.
Take a moment, sit back, breathe and relax.
We all know that doing a PhD can be really challenging, not only scientifically but also on the personal side. There have been enough studies talking about “we need to pay attention to our students’ mental health” , and that is good, but sadly, mental health is a topic that is often overlooked or even dismissed. Very often, doctoral researchers have to deal with the feeling of constant failure, impostor syndrome, heavy expectations and it is just overwhelming.
In addition, the requirements for a good PhD – such as learning a lot of new things and dealing with many complex and large projects – combined with stressful situations in the lab and private life can sometimes make it hard to cope. Add to that the whole process of moving to another country, as around 40% of Doctoral Researchers in the Helmholtz Association have  – and leaving friends and family behind. This is an additional burden to carry. So, what do you – as supervisors, professors, or team-mates – do in order to help the doctoral researchers cope with these factors? How important do you think is their overall mental health when it comes to not only producing good results, but also enjoying their PhD?
Doctoral Researchers should not be alone!
Let’s face it: you have probably experienced at least one of these real bad moments during your PhD, or your life in general. So, the first thing we want to make sure is that you let the doctoral researchers in your team know that they are not alone. Especially during these crazy recent times of a worldwide pandemic. Let us not ignore the importance of staying healthy in both mind and body.
Mental Health Awareness Month
The Helmholtz Juniors wants to invite you to join us this October for our Mental Health Awareness month! Our series bundles a lot of information and good practices to keep your minds healthy. Furthermore, we discuss the current state of Doctoral Researchers’ mental health in Germany and around the world. We provide information on how to identify possible stressors and signs of stress in your life as well as some potential tips on how to be happy.
Enjoy this reading as it will be a great opportunity for a precious 5 min break from work.
Helmholtz Juniors: the PhD network working to improve our situation
Wondering about the origin of this campaign? Let us introduce ourselves: we are the Helmholtz Juniors, the PhD network of the Helmholtz Association. We represent around 8000 Doctoral Researchers to the head office and the public, and our efforts focus on assessing and improving our situation during the PhD. You might have heard of some measurable results from our work, such as the general increase of salaries and implementation of contracts instead of stipends.
Let us together destigmatize mental health and do the first step together: Let’s talk about it!
But also remember, help can be right there, with a very long and deep breath and a simple and easy chit chat with a fellow Doctoral Researcher who might have been there already and can share some experience.
And finally: you survived 100% of your worst days so far. Congratulations on that! So take a moment, sit back, breathe and relax. You deserve it.
Additional Information that we want to share:
The University of Jena is hosting a Mental Health Webinar Series starting next Monday, October 5., with 7 interesting topics! Be sure to check out their program!
All the best!
Your local Helmholtz Juniors Ivona Kafedjiska, Marlene Härtel and doctoral representatives: Radu Bors, Markus Schleuning, Patrick Schnell, Jennifer Velázquez Rojas, Ke Xu, Ivona Kafedjiska, Marlene Härtel
Follow us on twitter (@helmholtzjrs), Facebook or Instagram (helmholtz.juniors) and keep up2date with our work!
- Nature, 13 November 2019: “The mental health of PhD researchers demands urgent attention“
- Survey Report 2019 by Helmholtz Juniors (pdf)
Authors: Pedro Ivo Silva Batista (DESY), Martin Schrader (HZDR), Michaela Löffler (UFZ), Nicolas Stoll (AWI), Fabian Wolf (GEOMAR), Younes Bouhadjar (FZJ), Stephanie Taylor (DZNE), Khwab Sanghvi (DKFZ), Lukas Kreis (GSI), Johannes Nelles (UFZ), Vasundhra Shaw (DESY), Olya Oppenheim (MDC)
Design: Marlene Härtel (HZB), Martin Schrader (HZDR), Anna-Lena Amend (HMGU), Xin You (UFZ)
Edited by: Ivona Kafedjiska (HZB)