Mental health initiative published in education journal
An article on the Department of Chemistry's ongoing work to address stress and mental health in graduate school has been published as an ASAP article in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Chemical Education. The article, "Stress and Mental Health in Graduate School: How Student Empowerment Creates Lasting Change," was written by leaders involved in the unique partnership that has been forged at the University of Minnesota to address stress and mental health issues faced by graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. Those authors include chemistry alumnae Maral P. S. Mousavi, Ph.D., Zahra Sohrabpour, Ph.D., and Amanda Stemig-Vindedahl, Ph.D., chemistry graduate student Evan L. Anderson, David Golden, Gary Christenson and Karen Lust from the University of Minnesota's Boynton Health, and Professor Philippe Bühlmann, chemistry's director of Graduate Studies.
The article describes an initiative that the Department of Chemistry started in 2012 to support the mental health of graduate students. This initiative is a continuing collaboration of graduate students, the director of Graduate Studies (DGS), and professionals from the University's mental health service that relies heavily on student empowerment and involvement of graduate students. The article describes events held on an ongoing basis in the chemistry department to address stress and mental health, raise awareness, and create on atmosphere in which stress and mental health are talked about openly. The students, DGS, and mental health representatives have developed and administered three times a department-specific survey to assess what mental health and stress factors affect students in the department most. The article describes changes that the department has made to its policies to eliminate unnecessary stress, considering the outcomes of the surveys, as well as events organized by students to meet the needs of the graduate students.
Many activities are organized by the highly successful, student-led Community of Chemistry Graduate Students (CCGS). Formed in the fall of 2012, arising from the results of the first mental health survey, the CCGS promotes a healthy academic environment for all graduate students in the Department of Chemistry. It connects students with existing university resources and refines and/or develops new resources aimed at increasing graduate student health, happiness, and productivity. It also facilitates communication between department faculty and staff and the graduate student body. It plans a variety of events and workshops, and creates videos for its "Surviving and Thriving Video Series."
By sharing details of the stress and mental initiative in the chemistry department, the authors wish to share their experiences and findings with other departments, hoping to inspire others, and also to receive feedback to further improve their own activities.