photo of stressed out studentMay is Mental Health Awareness Month — and can often be a high-pressure and stressful time for graduate and professional students who may be finishing papers and projects, grading final exams, and filing dissertations.

University Resources

Recently, the University of California released a full-text handbook for faculty and staff entitled Promoting Student Mental Health: A Guide for UC Faculty and Staff, providing in-depth information about mental health and examining the role that faculty, instructors and staff can play in providing a supportive academic environment and assisting students who may be in distress. The guides also provided inserts with campus-specific information about counseling services and training resources.

University Health Services (UHS), through their Look for the Signs campaign, also provides additional information about how to help yourself, peers, and others in your communities who may be struggling with depression. They also have a variety of resources for graduate students, including short-term counseling, support groups, satellite offices, and self-help screenings.

Mental Health & Wellness

As a complement to the efforts of University Health Services and the Tang Center, another group on campus seeks to shift the conversation about mental health and think about wellness more broadly. Derrika Hunt, the Graduate Student Wellness Project Director for the Graduate Assembly, explains.

“I have really tried to be conscious and careful of how I define mental health and how I work to address it using a culturally competent lens. The term is often understood and defined through a very particular lens that often fails to account for how class, race, gender, sexuality, ability and other mechanisms impact how we understand and address these issues. One of the first things I did was to conduct a student survey and ask students to express how they define mental health and ways that the Graduate Student Wellness Project could support them.

We got such a diversity of responses that it really led me to think more about wellness as an expanded concept, and how I could develop programs that incorporated the needs and concerns expressed.”

Events that the GSWP hosted over the past year included meditation and yoga classes, as well as art projects with the Berkeley Art Studio. However, some of the best feedback she received was for her Graduate Student Love Letter campaign, which delivered handwritten notes and small gifts to graduate students across campus. The campaign was designed to combat the isolation and loneliness that can often accompany graduate school and research, and she hopes to continue it next fall.