College students are stressed—that’s nothing new. Studies done by the American Psychological Association found that 78 percent of college students reported having feelings of anxiety or depression.
The stress seems to intensify in graduate school. According to ScienceDirect.com, one in two PhD students experience psychological stress and one in three graduate and doctoral students are at risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. These problems stem from being underpaid and overworked.
These academics are paying absurd amounts of money—or are getting paid extremely low wages in an assistantship—to get their education. They’re also more likely than undergraduate students to have a family, have rent to pay for and a full-time job working 40 hours a week.
The sad part of this is that the feelings of anxiety, depression and stress are so common in graduate and doctoral students that they joke about it.
In an article written by Kristin Hugo for PBS Newshour, she talks to Megan (last name omitted for privacy reasons), who said that her and her friends often joke about their mental illnesses.
“Me and my group of friends are all like ‘Yeah, we all have panic attacks. And we all have depression.’ Like ‘What meds are you on? Oh, that’s got fun side effects,’” Megan said. “We just talk about it casually and then we laugh. Like, man, we’re messed up. We’re all just nodding and crying inside.”
The prevalence of mental illnesses in higher education makes it seem like everyone has some sort of mental illness, which, according to statistics, they do.
The fact that students have been, and continue to struggle with mental illness at this high of a rate is disturbing. Schools have been trying to combat this by hiring more on-site counselors, organizing groups where students can vent their issues and providing fitness and nutrition centers so students can ‘work off the stress.’
Sadly, though, that’s not enough. Pursuing graduate or doctoral degrees shouldn’t mean suffering mentally, feeling depressed or having panic attacks, especially if they’re chronic. If it’s impossible to get out of bed, how is one going to earn a degree?
Data proves students are stressed to the max, so now the question is, what are universities, especially Youngstown State University, doing to combat these statistics?
There are a few options:
- Grad schools could have hour caps—those attending often have families, other jobs and obligations to attend to as well. Working additional hours can cause more stress that contributes to mental breakdowns.
- Schools could reimburse graduate and doctoral students for child care or offer child care programs. The UAW 2865, for example, represents the University of California’s main campuses. This organization gives grad and doctoral students reimbursement for child care and a 17 percent pay raise over four years. If a student must worry about their children during the day, their focus is averted from their studies or their work.
- Universities could hire more mental health professionals to help guide their students through rough times. Currently, YSU only has one licensed counselor on staff and the wait list is weeks long. Although students can talk to counselors-in-training, some may not be comfortable with that and need a licensed professional to assist them.
Students can and do take their mental health into their own hands, but sometimes that’s not enough. Mental health care is expensive and students entering grad school are often at the cusp of being knocked off of their parent’s insurance.
It’s time for universities to get serious about helping their students. Graduates are expected to go out into the world and make a name for the universities they attend, their achievements always reflecting back to the school they learned their founding skills from.
If these graduates are expected to take care of the school, isn’t it time for schools to start taking care of them?