03
September
2019
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17:01
Europe/London

University leaders issue statement of principles and practical action to promote graduate student mental health and well-being

Leaders of graduate institutions from 16 countries across six continents today agreed on a set of principles and practical actions supporting graduate student mental health and well-being.

The statement was released at the conclusion of the 13th Annual Global Summit on Graduate Education, “Cultural Contexts of Health and Well-being in Graduate Education,” co-hosted by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and The University of Manchester, with support from Educational Testing Service (ETS) and ProQuest. The Global Summit is an annual event designed to promote international best practices in master’s and doctoral education.

This year’s theme was chosen by an international steering committee to recognise the critical importance of graduate student mental health and well-being in a global context, a focus that can't be answered using a single method or approach. Addressing these concerns while working to destigmatise mental health treatment has become a priority in the graduate education community, but to date, there has been no coordinated global effort to address this issue.

Summit participants shared examples and background on the national and international context of graduate student mental health and well-being in their countries and institutions.

Well-being and mental health issues among postgraduate researchers are high on the agenda at The University of Manchester. It has been immensely useful to have learned that this is a shared problem in all parts of the world, and most importantly to share experience on approaches to prevention and early detection of issues, and how to support students and staff in addressing them.
Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester

Session topics addressed the organisational and administrative challenges to supporting graduate student mental health and well-being, including:

  • Addressing national trends and perspectives in cultural attitudes, differences in terminology, current research, legal contexts, demographic differences, and health care systems;
  • Creating a Campus Culture that Proactively Supports Wellness;
  • Addressing the Role of Mentors and Advisors;
  • Supporting “At-Risk” Student Populations; and,
  • Prioritising Professional Development and Career Counseling.

Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at The University of Manchester, commented that: “Well-being and mental health issues among postgraduate researchers are high on the agenda at The University of Manchester. It has been immensely useful to have learned that this is a shared problem in all parts of the world, and most importantly to share experience on approaches to prevention and early detection of issues, and how to support students and staff in addressing them.”

CGS President Suzanne T. Ortega noted: “One of our shared goals is to foster learning environments that provide all current and future graduate students with the tools and support to succeed. Our discussions over the last two days brought to light new ideas and strategies to take back to our campuses.”

Participants in the summit included deans and other leaders of graduate schools and representatives of national and international associations devoted to graduate education. Along with the United Kingdom and the United States, the countries represented were: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Malta, New Zealand, Rwanda, and South Africa.

The full statement can be read below:

2019 Strategic Leaders Global Summit

Cultural Contexts of Health and Wellbeing in Graduate Education

September 1-3, 2019 | Manchester, England

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. – World Health Organisation definition

Statement of Principles and Practical Actions

After the 2019 Global Summit on Graduate Education, it is evident that supporting health and wellbeing is a priority for the international graduate education community. The prevalence of mental health issues among students is recognized in all parts of the world. Universities have engaged in a broad set of responses to help to identify and address this but efforts have not always addressed the unique needs of graduate students. There is a growing realization that doctoral candidates face a particular set of challenges arising from issues such as expectations of high achievement, supervisory relationships and career insecurity. We recognize that our universities are both an enriching and stressful environment, and we must work to create spaces and communities that support wellbeing in an integrated way that addresses the needs of students, faculty, and staff and the academic mission of the university. The wellness of our students directly affects the overall operation of the university.

Practical Actions

  • Focus on prevention and resilience by building communities and offering resources and training.
  • Contribute to a culture of inclusion that supports mental health and wellbeing for all members of the university community.
  • Adopt a consistent terminology to distinguish between mental health, mental illness, and mental wellbeing.
  • Situate the student voice at the center of mental health and wellbeing initiatives.
  • Coordinate programs and practices supportive of mental wellbeing.
  • Develop and implement strategies to identify students in need of support and establish clear pathways to available services.
  • Delineate between the roles of supervisors and mental health professionals by clarifying expectations and responsibilities for supervisors.
  • Provide training and resources to support supervisors.
  • Identify and address the causes of excessive stress, such as institutional policies and practices, meeting high expectations, career uncertainty, supervisor relationships, and financial constraints.
  • Develop plans for responding to the mental health consequences of traumatic events.
  • Evaluate in a consistent and comparable way the impact of measures taken to promote better graduate student mental wellbeing.

The 2019 Strategic Leaders Global Summit on Graduate Education is generously supported by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and ProQuest.

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