I have a distinct memory from when I was in first or second grade of my mother kindly erasing my homework because my handwriting needed to be bonitinho. Even as a child, homework was unacceptable if it was messy. Growing up in Brazil, her schooling was the opposite of mine, and her expectations sometimes felt unrealistic or too harsh. Although her always correcting me helped my success in the long run, I always felt defeated when I couldn’t explain how I loved school but could never get excellent grades – something had always felt off. How could my classmates seem to get straight A’s effortlessly, and my hard work could only pull off B’s and C’s? I always thought I had a learning disability, but my mother (through no fault of her own) didn’t entertain the possibility: you just have to try harder. After years of jumping through hoops of not being able to afford the services to be tested, at age 25 I was diagnosed with adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and at 26, I was diagnosed with learning disabilities and slow processing speed.Read More »
We are thrilled to announce that Voices of Academia is now one year old! When we started out we wondered if we would even be able to find bloggers, yet here we are with over 50 blogs now available for you to view, written by the amazing #AcademicMentalHealth community, and many more waiting to be published. It would not have been possible without you – our contributors and our readers – so thank you.Read More »
Writing Papers… What’s The Problem?
One of the most important activities in an academic career is to publish your work. We all know it is the numbers that matter; the most valuable part of your CV is the number and quality of manuscripts published in scientific journals, defined by your H-Index. It is rule #1. Publish or you will perish in academia, and writing a scientific paper is held on a pedestal. It’s not the same as writing a tweet, a report, or a blog post (sorry, but it is true, even for me, since it is my first time!).
Every beginner or senior researcher knows this. After meeting and talking with different graduate students worldwide (from Sao Paulo, Vancouver, to Brisbane), all of us complain about the difficulties of writing. But if an English native speaker has problems, what about a non-native speaker? As a Brazilian (and we speak Portuguese, and not Brazilian or Spanish), I know how hard it is. This kind of pressure can make even the strongest researcher suffer.Read More »
When I started writing this article I wanted to give you a flavor of who I am as a person and my own mental health problems in academia but the longer I wrote, the more I became convinced that it’s not so much a ‘me’ problem as it is a structural and cultural problem. The system is designed to make us think it is us that are the issue.Read More »
Note: Norah Koch is a pen name. The Voices of Academia team have worked with the blogger to ensure they have a support network in place.
[Trigger Warning: Suicide, Suicidal Ideation]
I was seven years old when I read about a student who committed suicide because he failed his high school exams.
Back then, I used to read the newspaper daily. I was exposed to all kinds of information in the newspaper. I did not dwell much on thinking about the student. I didn’t know the person, and I did not feel any sadness. Newspapers usually have more bad news than good news anyway. I didn’t even understand what it meant. Someone died because he got bad grades. That was it.
I didn’t even bother to question why someone would commit suicide over bad grades. Let’s say that I was young when I read the news. Then again, I didn’t ask this question myself until I was a Masters student. Until I faced mental health issues because of academic pressure, I didn’t care about suicide. Now it sits in my thoughts.Read More »
Asking for reasonable adjustments can be hard, especially for hidden disabilities like autism. It took me over three decades to learn how to do it and I’ve finally made it to graduate school. Writing about it is also hard but I’m sharing part of my story here in the hope that this will encourage anyone who is struggling with asking for academic help to speak up. And give a glimpse into why seemingly minor adjustments can be so important. Oh, and I’ll explain about the tortoise…Read More »
Growing up, I moved around places because of my father’s job and I never found a sense of belonging with any one place. Losing connections with friends every time was painful and it has always been difficult for me to let go. Knowing that I would inevitably move again and knowing that I would have to let people go again, I kept on making more friends. However, it wasn’t until I experienced an unspeakable tragedy when I lost friends and someone special to a terrorist attack that my first experience with depression occurred. At the time I had no idea that I was even suffering from a mental illness. Things changed in that moment for me forever. According to my therapist, I have never been able to completely recover from that tragedy in 2008.
The reason I started with that paragraph instead of directly jumping into a discussion of academia is for everyone to know that academia did not triggermy mental illness; I had experienced it before following a tragedy. We are human beings, and we bring previous life experiences with us to our academic studies. However, there are certainly elements of academia that affected my mental health, including the narrative that sometimes we can only be academics and cannot have lives outside of our work. I hope that sharing my story here will help others to feel less alone.Read More »
While science is exciting and interesting, many aspects of the scientific practise are difficult and stressful. Navigating research can be a huge challenge for early career researchers, particularly if the academic hierarchies are not structured well. It is crucial to discuss systemic issues that plague the academic landscape. Talking openly about systemic racism, harassment, poor work-life balance and other issues may be uncomfortable, but it is very much necessary. In my blog, I want to talk about why many early career researchers feel overwhelmed and stressed, and what can be done to alleviate their problems.Read More »
When I was eight years old, I begged my Mum and Dad for a science kit for my birthday, shortly followed by a telescope and all the ‘how my body works’ books. After career day, I came home and announced, “I’m going to be a doctor.” I didn’t have the vocab back them for “making a difference – helping others.” There was also a status attached to wanting to be a doctor and naturally my parents reaffirmed my decision.Read More »
TW: Bullying, suicide
There is a narrative in academia that administrative (admin) and academic staff are two different camps/classes, with a ‘them vs us’ attitude across the sector. There are stories of academics shouting at admin and admin stifling academics with bureaucratic processes. But there are also different stories, which show that while bad behaviour can come from any direction, so too can support. I am writing about one of the support stories. I am an admin, writing this so that others don’t feel alone, to raise awareness of this dynamic, and to thank my academic colleagues.Read More »