Page-Robinson Hall

AT ITS FEBRUARY MEETING, Brown University’s Graduate Student Council (GSC) executive board focused on increased mental health support in its plans for the new semester.

These efforts follow the release of a draft of the GSC’s Graduate Student Strategic Initiative (GSSI). The GSSI highlights graduate students’ desire for better support surrounding mental health and wellness, including resources specifically designed for graduate students, programming to address work-related stress, and social support to foster a stronger graduate student community.

Kathryn Thompson, doctoral student in HSR and President of the Brown University Graduate Student Council, says graduate students have unique mental health needs that the University should address.

Kathryn Thompson, doctoral student in health services research and the GSC president, described several new programs the Council is working to implement. These programs include increased graduate student representation and inclusion in conversations surrounding campus mental health and a staff representative from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) who will meet exclusively with graduate students and is specifically trained to address their needs. Thompson also noted that the ability to book appointments with CAPS online to protect student anonymity and privacy is currently being developed.

Thompson said graduate students have increased need for mental health support, noting the longer amount of time many graduate students spend at Brown as a result of their increased responsibility level managing work, research, and classes.

“Anxiety and depression [are] very high… within the graduate community because of the unique circumstances circumstances graduate students face,” Thompson said. “Academic life, and especially grad student life, is full of ups and downs, and so, sometimes, graduate students just need [additional] help recovering from those downs.”

“Academic life, and especially grad student life, is full of ups and downs, and so, sometimes, graduate students just need [additional] help recovering from those downs.”

Kathryn Thompson, doctoral student in Health Services Research and Graduate Student Council president

Recently, campus organizations have made efforts to better incorporate graduate student needs into mental health programming. In an email, CAPS Director Will Meek described recent developments to address graduate students’ mental health needs, including adding “two graduate student representatives from the strategic planning group to [the] CAPS Student Consultation Board effective immediately.”

“All of these things make access better for grad students as well as the rest of our students,” Meek wrote. “They are just flat-out good ideas.” Meek also said that an anonymous feedback form is currently being developed for students, which would serve as another means of expressing their opinions, needs and concerns.

Thompson describes the GSC’s advocacy for graduate student mental health as representative of the collective needs and desires graduate students have expressed. “GSC gives a voice to graduate students,” she said. “We are very much a collective that is speaking for the entire graduate student body,” adding that leaders in CAPS and campus life “can really make a change. … GSC is there to provide the pressure.”

Previously published in The Brown Daily Herald on February 28, 2020.