When I was an intern during my undergraduate study and help the grad students in their experiments, I couldn’t wait to have my own lab one day, write papers and contribute something new to the world. I was enthusiastic to learn as much as I could and join research. However, within two weeks of my internship, I realized the scene in research is not as colorful as it is to a high school student. I remember how my PhD adviser would complain day in and out about “just getting done with this”. To be honest, I was appalled at this PhD student’s attitude. As I met his students and knew more people, I realized they have a club and almost the entire university belongs to the club where they meet occasionally to fret about their research life and the boring things they do. I used to wonder what all this was all about. As a high school student, I used to picture myself wearing goggles, white coat and working with golden sheets wrapping a satellite and prepping it for launch. The whole idea of research seemed so exciting at that point but why is it so different now?
The fretting episodes were not limited to my experience as an intern alone. As a graduate student myself, I see my colleagues fretting about it in a similar fashion and every day is a deja-vu right now. Why? If I break this problem down, I feel it has a lot to do with understanding one’s own psychology. A solid foundation of how the mind works can help one to navigate through everyday life seamlessly than another who has no clue about how the human mind works. For example, I see some people trying to put the other down because he knows more than the other, some brag about how many hours they have been working, some are working desperately to please their professors, some are just complaining about not getting results – the negativity is immense. Yes, there is a lot of positivity and a ton of people out there who love their work and are really happy to be here, but the elephant in the room that cannot be ignored is the growing negativity which is affecting the research environment. This negativity is the node of all mental health issues that is generated in graduate life apart from personal experiences hither to.
A lot has been discussed regarding Mental Health issues in school and how universities are trying to help students in this aspect. However, counselling centers help people as a reactive measure. Once there is a problem, and after a great deal of courage to go beyond the social stigma associated with mental health does one go for therapy only to spend months in trying to recover. Wouldn’t it be better if psychology and concepts of cognitive distortions, appreciation, acceptance etc is taught in a course? I strongly feel that an exposure to such topics will help students greatly. Many may not be able to relate to several issues at first, but if they ever go through a rough situation, they will know how to deal with the situation.