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re/SEARCH: Share and discuss PhD mental health

re/SEARCH: Share and discuss PhD mental health

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A peer-to-peer meet up for researchers to share & discuss mental health within academia. 50% of profits to a student mental health charity.

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re/SEARCH is a monthly online peer-to-peer meet up for researchers to share and discuss mental health within academia and the research process. It is a space to focus on the personal experience of doing research, an occasion to pause and reflect on the personal challenges to mental health that can occur during a PhD.

The session will encompass both a semi-structured creative workshop setting focusing on a particular facet of the PhD experience, as well as a social and an opportunity to grab a warm drink and connect with a community of likeminded people. Sharing stories of mental health and wellbeing is at times a daunting prospect, but it is hoped that through these sessions, the focus on community and knowledge-sharing, will allow for a supportive and inspiring space to share experiences.

The session is convened by Sé Mali, currently undertaking a PhD at UCL, who has first-hand experience of juggling their research aspirations alongside managing grief, depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental health, as well as interrupting their studies in the official sense of the word. Sé is a part time MPhil/PhD student at the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL. In 2016 they co-founded Liminal Spaces, a collective focusing on the interdisciplinary connections between art, academia, and activism. This largely focused on the project RESEARCH / INTERRUPTED, a meet up for researchers to share and discuss mental health within academia. re/SEARCH is a further iteration of this project.

This event is free to attend, but there will be a (no obligation) opportunity afterwards to make a small donation to Student Minds, a student mental health charity.

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Once you have paid, you will receive the Zoom link in a confirmation email. If you haven't received it within an hour, email us at contact@thephdproofreaders.com (check your spam folder though just in case, and click 'not spam').

A note from the convenor on why this workshop came about:

"Very soon after I started my PhD, I began caveating any explanation I gave of it with the disclaimer that it was some of the most expensive therapy of my life. This would get a knowing smile or a courteous chuckle, but my self-deprecating humour was an attempt at admitting that I was, actually, finding this really hard. Before I had started, a friend of mine – already in the throes of theirs – asked: how’s your mental health? This is a story I have shared frequently but the weight of it, of this question, only really became known to me when I was steeped in my own research a few years down the line.

Undertaking a PhD is, in my opinion, first and foremost a privilege. I feel lucky to be able to pursue research which I find interesting and to make it work as a way of being in the world. But the PhD process can also be incredibly difficult: it is often isolated work, with the doing, thinking, writing, producing, editing, publishing resting solely on your shoulders. You are the entire production line, a line which often becomes porous in boundary, spilling into evening, weekend, days off. Because of the great unknown really: will this be enough?

In its very nature then, a PhD programme induces anxiety, stress, overworking, self-doubt, burn out. Throw in precarious contracts, a fight for tenure, a pandemic… Well, things begin to stack up. And in this same breath, it is hard not to talk about academia and mental health without the C word, Covid’s impact felt across the world, not least when lonely work becomes lonelier. To produce work during a pandemic, is to have anxiety seep into its fabric.

Some of us will come into the research programme with ongoing mental health issues, for others it might exacerbate them, and more still might come up against their own mental health in ways never done so before. For myself, I stepped into my programme with depression and anxiety which has peaked and troughed at various points, with several interruptions and months where I couldn’t look at the work.

It was during those first few years that I shared with a friend, also doing a PhD, how much I was struggling. Her answer was: me too. And so, the more I opened up to others, the more I heard the same refrain: me too, me too, me too. What emerged from those initial conversations grew into a social space for PhD students to connect over their mental health in a peer-to-peer format. Over the years, I have ended up in some pretty hard places with my mental health, but what stayed invaluable was the solidarity felt amongst other students when we came together during those conversations.

Today, re/SEARCH builds on those very first meet ups to foster connectivity when all of our mental health will have taken a hard hit the last few years. Re/SEARCH is about creating a vulnerable space that admits that this is really damn hard. But here we are, together."

-- Sé Mali

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