At times, every PhD student experiences stress and challenges to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In designing this PhD programme, we have thought hard about how to support student wellbeing. Consistent with Wellcome’s “Reimagine research” agenda, the programme emphasises a training environment that:
- Promotes a positive research culture for students
- Reduces the likelihood of students developing mental health problems
- Identifies and supports students who are struggling with mental health problems
Supervisors are trained in recognising the wellbeing needs of students, and in the identification of mental health problems, including:
• Promoting a culture in which mental health problems are accepted, not stigmatised
• Spotting the early signs of mental health problems
• How to discuss these sensitively with students and what to do next
This training is required to become a supervisor on the programme, regardless of seniority.
Students will be assigned an independent mentor for the duration of the PhD programme whose role is to help guide them through the programme and provide personal support and career advice. This will be an academic member of staff not involved in the student’s academic supervision.
We want to foster strong peer-group support within and between each cohort of students. To do this the programme runs:
• Bi-monthly journal clubs
• An annual residential retreat, including student and faculty talks and poster sessions
• Regular student-organised social events
• A seminar programme focused on general skills development
Within our programme of general skills development seminars we will include a seminar in Year 1 on coping with stress and mental wellbeing, led by supervisors modelling a healthy life-work balance.
We have implemented a “buddy” system, pairing new students with a more senior peer to whom they can turn for support.
Wider support at UCL
Through its Mental Health Strategy, UCL is committed to policies that protect and promote staff and student mental health, and UCL is one of the first universities to apply for a Mental Health Charter Award.
We ensure that students are aware of the range of available support at UCL, including:
- Wellbeing @ UCL (especially its Mental Wellness initiative, which promotes a proactive approach in maintaining good mental health)
- SilverCloud (UCL’s online psychological therapy provider)
- CareFirst (UCL’s 24-hour support helpline and drop-in service provider)
- UCL Student Support