Mental Health in Graduate School with Susanna L. Harris (Rerun)

Warning: Please note that this episode mentions different mental health issues, including suicidal ideation.

This week, given that this holiday season might be particularly difficult for some of you, I’m having a rerun of a great conversation around mental health in graduate school I had in Season 1 of the podcast with Susanna L. Harris. I hope it will help those of you who are struggling or who have friends or close ones who are.

When we look around us, it’s easy to think everyone else is doing fine and has a picture perfect life. It’s easy to feel like your peers are better than you, more successful, having a better time. But you’d be surprised… In today’s stressful day-to-day, in particular in graduate school, more people than you imagine are struggling with anxiety and depression.

In part one of this week’s episode of Papa PhD, Susanna Harris will be sharing with you her personal experience dealing with depression during her PhD and the lessons this experience has brought her.

Susanna L Harris

Susanna L Harris, PhD, believes clear and transparent communication builds communities. Susanna loves creating spaces for people to understand each other and share their passions, whether that be about science and technology or mental health and wellness. While earning her PhD in microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Susanna founded PhD Balance to empower graduate students to thrive in academia.
Susanna translates cutting-edge research into accessible and engaging materials for professional and public audiences. Through real-world experience and professional training in written, oral, and digital communication, Susanna confidently speaks to rooms of 5-to-500. Susanna approaches scientific outreach, whether to investors or kindergartners, through the lens of inquiry-based learning; through charisma and compassion, she can persuade others to reevaluate their beliefs and opinions towards new technologies and divisive world challenges.

Susanna is the Manager of Engagement and Communications at Xontogeny, managing interactions with key stakeholders and leading communication strategies to optimize value of collaborations and support of entrepreneurs and management teams of life science startups. She earned her BS in microbiology at the University of Iowa and her PhD in microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The importance of finding undergrad and graduate programs in domains that interest you
  • How to reason you way through impostor syndrome in graduate school 
  • How to deal with negative self-talk and with negative talk coming from others
  • The importance of getting specialized help if you’re struggling, especially if you’re dealing with mental health issues
  • Why you should have someone who you can safely share your struggles and your worries with during graduate school
  • How knowing your yearly mood cycle can help you keep balance

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“Do what you think success looks like.”

“Things that support people’s mental health are things like having a routined schedule, having very clear goals, then metrics by which to meet them, a clear understanding of expectations, family, friends, loved ones…”

“Going back to the idea of taking care of myself – if you have a pet you don’t have a choice of not getting up in the morning, you don’t have a choice of staying in your house all day long. And things like – they have to eat twice a day, so I should probably eat at least twice a day… and companionship.”

“Those pieces that we tell people, that sound so fluffy, like “have a support system” or “get enough sleep”, or “be introspective” – those are often the hardest, but they really are the pieces that matter.”

Thank you, Susanna!

If you enjoyed this conversation with Susanna L. Harris, let her know by clicking the link below and leaving her a message on Twitter:

Send Susanna L. Harris a thank you message on Twitter!

Click here to share your key take-away from this interview with David!

This episode’s resources:

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