#29: On the mental health of researchers

On the mental health of researchers: Episode Notes

Not enough attention is being paid to the mental health of researchers.
For this reason, a few researchers, researcher groups, organizations and non-profits are working hard to raise their concerns.

In this episode of Stepsero we are joined by Clarinda Cerejo and Andrea Hayward, who are two professionals behind a recent survey involving 13,000 researchers from across the globe.
The report that followed, published by Cactus Communications with the support of several other partners, provides a comprehensive picture about the good and the bad side of researchers’ activities, and suggestions for positive changes in academic culture that can be implemented across institutions all over the world.

Below are some key takeaways from the CACTUS Mental Health Survey Report 2020:

  • Close to 40% of the respondents stated that they had felt overwhelmed by their work situation fairly or very often in the previous month.
  • Over 30% of the respondents stated that they typically work more than 50 hours a week. 
  • 37% of the respondents stated that they had experienced (or were experiencing) some form of bullying, discrimination and harassment within their organization. 

Despite the prevalence of mental health difficulties in academia, many researchers find it difficult to seek support or ask for help. In many ways this could be due to the lack of safe and confidential spaces within universities and research institutions where researchers can access support. In line with this, almost half of the survey respondents said they would not discuss work-based feelings of severe stress or anxiety with relevant people/authorities in their workplace.
Some of the key reasons holding them back from an open discussion about these feelings were; a sense that others would be unable to help, fear of not being taken seriously, and a sense that these feelings were part of normal academic life. 

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have brought on additional stress and concerns for researchers as they simultaneously take on changes brought on by a global crisis.
In a tweet by PhD Diaries (a popular academic Twitter profile), she explained what academia has been like in a post-COVID world – “…since you can’t leave your house, I expect all of you to: write 12 papers, teach 8 classes, learn R, review 16 grants… Oh and, don’t forget to ‘take care of yourself’ during this pandemic, whatever that means.”

Our Guests: Clarinda Cerejo & Andrea Hayward

Clarinda Cerejo Profile Picture
Andrea Hayward Profile Picture

Clarinda Cerejo is Senior Director, Thought Leadership at Cactus Communications.
Clarinda’s mission is to improve the research culture and the way scientific research is published and shared globally. To this end, she leads various content and research projects touching upon science communication, publication success, and mental health among researchers. The most recent project she’s been involved in is a global survey on mental health in academia – an initiative through which she hopes to start an important global conversation on what organizations can do to create a more supportive and nurturing environment for researchers.
She is currently turning her attention towards science communication in Life Sciences and Medical Affairs and working to help research from these sectors be widely read and have the real-world impact it should.

Andrea Hayward is Senior Associate, Global Community Engagement at Cactus Communications.
Coming from an educational background in Psychology, Andrea has always been very interested in and passionate about the cause of mental health. As part of her role at CACTUS over the past one year, she has been managing Joy and Stress Triggers – a global survey on mental health among researchers. Andrea hopes that the findings and insights from this survey will spark more open discussions around mental health in academia, and trigger a much-needed change towards a more positive academic culture and better institutional support for researchers.
Andrea also loves spending time on Twitter, and you can follow her at @AndieAitch for conversations around mental health or for pictures of her adorable cat Stitches.


Clarinda Cerejo Linkedin profile

Andrea Hayward Linkedin profile

Report; Joy and Stress Triggers – a global survey on mental health among researchers