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Recommendations for policy/program considerations


Suggestions from the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario[1]Not in the Syllabus: Findings from the Canadian Federation of Students– Ontario’s survey on graduate student mental health. Retrieved from here. and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.[3]Stebleton & Kaler (2020). Promoting Graduate Student Mental Health: The Role of Student Affairs Professionals and Faculty. JCC Connexions 6(1).

Flexible counselling hours

Person with ClockEnsure graduate student mental health services offer flexible hours, including evening hours. This is necessary to accommodate graduate students’ schedules, which often involve being on campus in the evenings and on weekends, while also taking classes, facilitating labs and teaching during regular business hours. Telecounselling or online psychotherapy may also offer more flexible opportunities for both counsellors and graduate students.

Comprehensive training of graduate-specific issues

GearsHaving an on-campus counsellor available exclusively to graduate students who is familiar with the unique challenges graduate students face. Additionally, provide all staff with training on graduate-specific issues as well as basic mental health safety training and mandatory equity, anti-oppression and anti-stigma training.

Private and separated space for graduate student counselling services

Conversation BubblesChoosing an appropriate location is important for maintaining student confidentiality so graduate students are not in the same place as the students they may teach or facilitate labs.

Access to and promotion of e-health technology

Computer ScreenA 24-hour mobile or chat line would allow students easy access to mental health professionals. Although this cannot directly replace traditional counselling, it is a useful first point of contact that would provide students with alternate methods of seeking assistance. E-mental health solutions also go beyond online counselling, and may include the use of client management or student engagement platforms. E-mental health resources in the references list below corresponding to the following citations offer an in-depth look at existing solutions.

Building graduate student issues into a campus-wide mental health initiative

Group of PeopleInstitutions should embed graduate student mental health and development into the institutional vision and strategic goals of the campus. Doing so will increase knowledge, reduce stigma and expose the roots of the problem. Raising awareness helps encourage members’ commitment to take action and foster change on campus.

Tailoring services to students at different stages of their program

Clipboard with CheckmarkIn a study that examines differences in well-being at various stages of a doctoral program, it was found students reported the highest well-being and internal motivation during the coursework phase, while the comprehensive examination phase was found to be the most challenging for the majority of students as indicated by the lowest wellness and motivation scores.[2]Transitioning to Remote Health & Wellness Services in Post-Secondary Settings: A Case Study Approach. Retrieved from here. Targeted programs for students at different stages of their academic journeys will ensure students receive support when they most need it.

Comprehensive training of graduate-specific issues on campus

GearsSpecific training and orientation at the workplace on graduate-specific issues and roles cannot be overlooked. Staff and graduate students should be included in the development of training programs. Trainings should include professional development, wherever possible, and provide mandatory equity, anti-oppression and anti-stigma training to all workers and students. Many scholars and practitioners also encourage faculty to develop greater awareness about mental health resources on campus. This is important, however faculty and student affairs staff should additionally work to create climates where students feel comfortable discussing mental health before the issues become exacerbated to the extent they need professional intervention. It’s important they also learn how to implement strategies to promote mental health in their departments. Their role is to help promote well- being within their own departmental culture.

Extend partnerships with campus career centres

BriefcaseGraduate students, student affairs staff and faculty often remain unaware of career development resources on campus. Many students face anxiety about their future work opportunities, including those who might pursue tenure-track positions. Concerns around the increasing “giggification” of the academy and pressures to publish as graduate students may contribute to these anxieties. Other students struggle with the realization they might need to consider non-academic careers. When acknowledging many graduate students hold concerns about career uncertainty (which can lead to increased anxiety and/or depression), it makes sense for faculty to work with other partners, such as career development services, to ameliorate these concerns. Collaboration in the form of workshops, class visits and/or events serve as important opportunities for connection, and faculty members can assume lead roles in fostering these partnerships.

References   [ + ]

1. Not in the Syllabus: Findings from the Canadian Federation of Students– Ontario’s survey on graduate student mental health. Retrieved from here.
2. Transitioning to Remote Health & Wellness Services in Post-Secondary Settings: A Case Study Approach. Retrieved from here.
3. Stebleton & Kaler (2020). Promoting Graduate Student Mental Health: The Role of Student Affairs Professionals and Faculty. JCC Connexions 6(1).
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