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Mental Health, Reputation, and Academia

A friend (also in graduate school) posted this article on Facebook today (which is actually pointing readers to a series in The Guardian UK, if you want to skip the good blog post and go straight to the meat). I will usually repost on Facebook or the usual places which are designed for reblogging (Tumblr, cough cough), but I felt this was relevant to graduate work and professionalism, which is part of what my blog is about, so I wanted to boost the signal here as well.

It still seems common to simply downplay or hide problems with stress and mental illness (in the linked study, 61% of academics with mental health problems say their colleagues are unaware of their problems). This may be a reflection of the fact that academia is focused individual performance and individual reputation. Colleagues choose to work with you, to invite you to their department, to hire you, based in no small part on your reputation. Admitting to having suffered from mental illness can feel like adding an obstacle to the already difficult academic landscape. For many, admitting to struggling can feel like failure, particularly since everyone around them seems to be managing the harsh conditions just fine (whether or not that is really true). – Caroline Tucker, The EBB & Flow


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