By Amanda Lees, AUT Counsellor
AUT offers several groups and numerous activities throughout the year for research students (those involved in producing a thesis). Many of these groups have an emphasis on aspects of academic life. Group activities and events can provide insight into what fellow students are engaged in and thinking about. Groups have the potential to reduce isolation, to stimulate thought, to see issues through others’ perspectives, and to learn about how other people deal with similar issues. They can also provide a chance for mutual support. Groups tend to provide synergy. However, groups that focus upon academic-related issues do not specifically attend to ‘The Person’ who conducts the research – that is you, the PG student!
This new group is aimed at providing socio-emotional support for ‘The Person’ who conducts the many roles that a research student can be involved in – these roles include study, work, teaching, partner, family, and more. Postgraduate students, especially those involved in large-scale thesis projects, can have more complex life scenarios associated with their various roles, greater isolation, pressure to perform and expectations to be outstanding, loss of familiar culture and cultural adjustment (especially for international students), and sometimes difficulties with their supervisory relationship(s).
A recent article called “Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students” (Levecquea et al 2017) cites the following mental health issues for PhD students:
- One in two PhD students experiences psychological distress; one in three is at risk of a common psychiatric disorder
- The prevalence of mental health problems is higher in PhD students than in non-students of a similar education level
- Work and organizational context are significant predictors of PhD students’ mental health
Given the above-mentioned factors, the new group ‘Postgrad Student Connections’ will be offered and facilitated by one of the counsellors in AUT’s Counselling and Mental Health Service. It aims to provide a space for participants to meet regularly, to discuss the challenges and triumphs of study and personal lives, and to experience support from other participants and the counselling staff. The group seeks to provide socio-emotional psychological support for ‘The Person’ conducting the research/thesis, so as to enable ‘The Person’ fulfilling the various roles to stay resilient, buoyant, and to maintain a dynamic-balance i.e. to foster emotional well-being. This group will meet monthly at City Campus on Monday afternoons (see attached flyer for details).
Levecquea, K., Anseela, F., De Beuckelaerd, A., Van der Heydenf, J., & Gisle, L. (2017). Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students. Research Policy, 46, 868-879. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2017.02.008