Doing a PhD can be challenging: whether you have to accommodate tight deadlines, deal with paper rejections, your experiments are not working, or you’re simply having a bad day. This is why it is important to look after yourself and your peers.
With the aim to support PhD students and their mental health throughout Scotland, SICSA is setting up a PhD peer support network and is looking for volunteers to get involved. This network would provide (online) drop-in sessions for students to meet up, discuss and share issues or worries with their peers and get support. The session would be run by PhD students after completing a Mental Health Awareness online training course. This course lasts 3.5 hours, spread over two days, and is fully funded by SICSA. The course is designed for everyone, whether you have prior knowledge about mental health or not, and most participants enjoy it very much. While this course will not prepare you to become a mental health professional (e.g., a counsellor), it will provide a good understanding of the issues that may arise from poor mental health and how to address them.
This emerging peer support network builds upon experiences gathered through a peer support system within the University of Glasgow. In the past year and a half, we have been running weekly PhD Support Groups, built on trust, respect, and compassion. This helped us to create a safe space where we could listen to fellow PhD students’ experiences, provide information about different aspects of the PhD life and programme (or suggest who might know more about a specific issue), and tell our peers where to get appropriate help in case of a mental health crisis. Before we embarked on this journey, we also attended a training course, where we learned what mental health is, how to protect your own and other people’s mental health, how to recognise when a person might need help, and the best way to approach them. We found that the skills taught in this course helped us to support our friends and colleagues, but were also applicable within our own daily lives.
If you would like to know what the first steps towards helping others are and how to put your knowledge and skills into action, please register your interest by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.