Cohen, S., Pruitt, A. S., Agner, J., & Barney, D.
Society for Community Research and Action Biennial Conference, Chicago, IL, - June 26-29, 2019
Publication year: 2019

Research suggests that graduate students experience poor mental health and high levels of stress (Barreira et al., 2018; Evans et al., 2018; Maz z ola et al., 2011). Evans and colleagues (2018) found that graduate students in their study were more than six times as likely to experience anxiety and depression than the general population. Within graduate student populations, women and transgendered students may be more likely to experience depression and anxiety than their male counterparts, and first generation college students are more likely to have consistently high cortisol levels and negative emotions than those whose parents attended college (Stephens et al., 2012). A recent study has suggested that the growing rates of mental illness in graduate student populations indicate a “mental health crisis” in higher education (Evans et al., 2018). Much of the research examining graduate student mental health and wellbeing focuses on micro- level issues, such as imposter syndrome (Pishva, 2010), perfectionist- related characteristics and behaviors (Cowie et al., 2018), mentor- student relationships, and perceived work- life balance (Evans et al., 2018). Not surprisingly, suggested interventions often target the individual level, such as interventions that seek to change graduate student coping behaviors. In this roundtable, we turn to a broader, ecological discussion of graduate student experiences. We will discuss systemic- level issues that impact graduate student wellbeing, particularly for community psychology graduate students. For example, academic values of speed (finishing in a timely manner), competitiveness, and funding priorities are often at odds with community psychology values and practice, and navigating this mismatch has implications for mental and physical wellbeing. In addition to discussing multilevel impacts on graduate student wellbeing, this roundtable will discuss potential department strengths that can mitigate these impacts and future directions for researching and addressing this issue.

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