The mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers (PGRs) (e.g., PhD, ProfDoc etc.) and the student population generally is in the public focus. Reports of the mental health difficulties of students (e.g., The Independent, BBC News) continue to make for concerning reading. In August 2018, I introduced the PGR Wellbeing project in a blog post for the MICE Hub – a project that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of PGRs by improving mental health literacy and social support. We are now at the midway point for the project, which is due to be completed in January 2020. Our current project-related activities are as follows:
- The pre-intervention survey was completed between October – November 2018 (n = 241), with further recruitment from Leeds Beckett University planned for February 2019.
- Data analysis is ongoing, but the data suggests that the majority of researchers were experiencing mild-severe non-specific psychological distress, and that focusing on improving wellbeing generally may help to reduce this (e.g., improving individual knowledge of mental health conditions may be beneficial).
Image – PGRs attending the co-production workshop in December 2018
- We ran an initial co-production interventions workshop with PGRs December 2018, and sought feedback from PGRs for the proposed project-related interventions.
- PGRs were interested in developing interventions, being PGR mental health ‘champions’ and representing PGRs at the University of Portsmouth at the UKCGE conference in May.
- An online development team at the University of Portsmouth have been seconded to develop online mental health and wellbeing resources with PGRs, ready to go live in October.
- After the initial consultation with PGRs in December, mentoring circles will be developed and piloted with PGRs, the Graduate School and the Wellbeing Service, ready to go live in October.
Supervisor training session(s)
- We delivered an initial supervisory training workshop in November 2018, which covered a wide range of topics included the role of the supervisor, pedagogies, and identification of mental health problems, guidance, and referral, amongst others.
- A further workshop is planned for 12th February 2019 in the Graduate School.
Next steps for the project
We will be developing our project-related interventions (e.g., online resources, mentoring circles, supervisor training) with PGRs, ready to go live in October 2019. Our project partner, Leeds Beckett University, will be evaluating the tools and guidance that we develop at the University of Portsmouth from October 2019 onwards.
In partnership with UKCGE, Nature Research and the University of Sussex, we will be co-delivering/presenting an International Conference on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Postgraduate Researchers from 16th-17th May 2019, at the Jury’s Inn Waterfront, Brighton.
The purpose of the event is to discuss and update delegates on sector policy developments (nationally and internationally), institutional strategies, research, and good practice in the field of PGR mental health and wellbeing. The conference is aimed at researchers, as well as practitioners, within Higher Education.
How can I keep updated on the progress of the project?
Project-related updates will be posted periodically on the MICE hub website and Twitter. General information about the project is available on the project-relate website. Details are as follows:
I would like to get involved/I know someone who may be interested
If you are a PGR (or know someone) at the University of Portsmouth who would like to get involved with helping us develop our interventions, please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss (Twitter: @DrRMoss), Research Associated on the PGR Wellbeing project at the University of Portsmouth (School of Education and Sociology).