Universiteit Leiden

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Mental health

The most common problem areas PhD students face are listed below, as well as how one can begin to fix these problems.

Are you harassed at work?

Unfortunately, harassment or bullying are common within organisations, including universities. Harassment comprises humiliating, intimidating and threatening behaviour. This has serious consequences, both for the health of the victim, and for the co-workers who are witness to this harassment. To find out what you can do, read the Harassment at work brochure. You can also contact the Confidential Adviser on Unacceptable Behaviour in cases of (sexual) intimidation, aggression, violence and discrimination. Together with the adviser, you can look into possible solutions to the problem in an atmosphere of absolute confidentially. One option is to submit a complaint to the special complaints committee set up for this purpose.

Are you stressed or at risk of a burn-out?

At some point, many PhD candidates feel overwhelmed by their projects, stressed out, or even at risk of a burn-out. There are three main areas of symptoms that are considered to be signs of a burn-out:

  1. Exhaustion: People at risk of a burn-out generally feel more drained than normal and emotionally exhausted. You might feel that you are unable to cope, tired and down.
  2. Alienation from (work-related) activities: People who are at a risk of a burn-out find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. You might find yourself becoming cynical about your working conditions and your colleagues. At the same time, you might distance yourself emotionally and start feeling numb about your work. 
  3. Reduced performance:  A burn-out mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or even when caring for family members. People suffering from a burn-out are very negative about their (everyday) tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity. 

If you feel overwhelmed, stressed or think that you are at risk of a burn-out, don’t wait but seek help now! You can, for instance, contact the PhD counsellor at your Institute or the University doctor. Anything you discuss, with the doctor or your PhD counsellor, will remain confidential. He or she can help you to find a solution that suits your situation.

Caring Universities

Getting a PhD can be a challenge. You have a lot of deadlines and things to think of. At some time, this can cause a (too) high workload.  

Caring Universities offers free online programs to improve the mental well-being of PhD candidates. There are 8 programs aimed at improving your mood, reducing stress, diminishing the habit of procrastination, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, improving self-esteem, tackling sleep problems, learning life skills and getting a grip on problems. All programs are evidence-based, developed by clinical psychologists, and offer online coaching. You can use the programs anonymously if you wish. Click here for the platform with the programs and more information. When you have questions, you can send an email: caring.universities@leidenuniv.nl.

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