Graduate Students and Mental Health

Self-Care and Mental Health in Graduate School

TheHealthPsychologistA Word from the Student Advisory Council

Jessica NaftalyJessica Naftaly, M.S.
Chair SfHP Student Advisory Council
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science


Graduate students wear many “hats” throughout their graduate career. Depending on the day, one may wear the research hat, the educator hat, the therapist-in-training hat, the student hat, or the leadership hat. Outside of school, graduate students serve in various other roles that require just as much time and attention. Thus, having the ability to be flexible and effective in role switching becomes imperative.

Balancing various roles can be stressful and difficult to manage which can put students at risk for mental health conditions. Graduate students and psychologists are human and are not immune to mental health challenges despite roles as mental health providers. Self-care routines alone cannot prevent the onset of anxiety and depressive symptoms, but they can help improve work-life balance. Faculty and advisors can support graduate students by being aware that graduate students are at an increased risk for mental health concerns. Further, demonstrating healthy work-life balance for graduate students may also be helpful.

Graduate Students and Mental Health

The Student Advisory Council provides information below about how they balance various responsibilities as students and how they practice self-care.

“Balance is important with almost all activities throughout graduate school and I actively try to block off allotted amounts of time to engage in both school and leadership activities. Throughout graduate school I have tried to sign up for leadership activities that are both personally and professionally meaningful and have provided me with an opportunity to grow and thus I feel more excited to commit my time and energy to them. Self-care wise, I like to plan ahead so I have something to look forward to as well as try to find time for myself every day. It is easy to become overwhelmed with all of the demands of school. As such, it is of the utmost importance to remember that although this journey may be stressful, it is also an exciting time that deserves to be celebrated!” -Nicole Butler, M.A.

“Everyone’s self-care looks different, but the most important aspect is allotting yourself specific times when you’ll engage in a rewarding activity to actually allow yourself the time to relax; this includes staying mindful in the moment and not allowing yourself to worry about the next thing on your to-do list.” -Jenn Gittleman, B.A.

“For myself, self-care means spending regular time with my partner and friends, in addition to being physically active, eating and hydrating healthily, going outdoors, and traveling when I can. All of these activities are also in my calendar to protect this time and maintain sustainable boundaries while being a doctoral student.” -Olivia Zech, M.A.

“One of the best pieces of advice I received during graduate school orientation was, “spend one day each week not doing anything academic.” It is so easy for graduate school to bleed into our weekends, so setting aside one day dedicated to anything but school has been a lifesaver for me. I have really tried to abide by this rule during my time in graduate school and believe it has really helped me practice self-care.” -Madeline Johnson, M.S.

“Using organizational strategies such as Google calendar, reminder apps, and excel documents help us stay organized, further allowing us to prioritize everything that needs to be done and schedule time for self-care.” -Jenn Gittleman, B.A., and Olivia Zech, M.A.


Chair: Jessica Naftaly, M.S.

Chair elect: Madeline Johnson, M.S.

Past Chair: Aviva Ariel-Donges, Ph.D.

Diversity Committee: Darryl Sweeper Jr, M.A., and Dominic Ysidron, M.S.

Membership Committee: Nicole Butler, M.A., and Jennifer Gittleman, B.A.

Communications Committee: Ke Ding, M.S., and Olivia Zech, M.A.

Post-doc Representative: KayLoni Olson, Ph.D.