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NIH Seminar Series: The Mental Health and Well-being of Biomedical Researchers

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A series of 2018 articles in Nature (see, e.g., https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.4089) convincingly demonstrated an incidence of depression and anxiety in the graduate school population (~40%), more than 6 times the rate observed in the general population. Rates are even higher in marginalized graduate student populations.  A 2020 study, What Researchers Think about the Culture (https://wellcome.ac.uk/sites/default/files/what-researchers-think-about-the-culture-they-work-in.pdf) commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, reports similar lack of wellbeing among researchers, predominantly in the sciences, at all career levels.

Many of us observe first-hand the effects of the pressures under which trainees operate as they make the transition from their college or postbac experience to graduate or professional school or enter the job market. At the same time, Visiting Fellows and US trainees from marginalized groups are worried about their place in the scientific endeavor. Staff and faculty are also under stress, dealing with their own career progression, mentoring and supporting others, and finding time to take care of themselves. This is difficult for everyone given the culture of science, which values and requires long hours, intense focus, and sustained drive.

Culture change happens when stakeholders meet to learn new skills and to discuss issues in community. Therefore, the NIH OITE is pleased to sponsor a monthly virtual program focused on the health and well-being of the biomedical research workforce. The program is open to trainees at all educational levels and administrative staff, faculty, and other research supervisors at universities, the NIH and other research institutions. Our aim is to provide tools to help participants cope with their own stress and support others under stress. In addition, we hope to explore programs and program-wide systems that can increase awareness of the role of wellness and resilience in a successful scientific career and provide guidance on strategies for cultivating them.

Each virtual program will include an introductory lecture, time for Q&A, and an optional small group discussion facilitated by experienced mental health practitioners. The goal of the small groups is to share ideas and to learn new skills as we work to develop a culture of wellness in our research groups and programs. We will learn about various elements of mental health, discuss preventive strategies, and work to develop supportive language that can be used with trainees, peers, and colleagues. This interactive program will include role plays and the discussion of scenarios based on real-life situations.

For more information, please join our NIH-OITE-INFO listserv.

The tentative schedule for Fall 2020 through Spring 2021 follows.

Sign language interpreting services and live captioning will be provided for this event. Individuals who need other reasonable accommodations to participate in this event, or would like a sign language interpreter for the small group should contact Jackie Newell (newellj@nih.gov) or the Federal Relay Service @ 800-877-8339. Requests should be made as soon as possible. 

Past Presentations

TopicDateYouTube
Suicide Prevention and Awareness October 5, 2020 View Presentation
Mental Health and Wellness through a Cultural Lens November 2, 2020 View Presentation
Addictive Behaviors December 1, 2020 View Presentation
Wellness and Wellness Assessments January 11, 2021 View Presentation
Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders February 1, 2021 View Presentation
Depression and Depressive Disorders March 1, 2021 View Presentation
Executive Function April 6, 2021 View Presentation
Psychology of Career Decision-Making May 3, 2021 View Presentation
Responding to Individual & Community Trauma June 7, 2021 View Presentation
Autism July 12, 2021  

For questions regarding this series, please contact the OITE at OITE@nih.gov. Please include "Mental Health Series" in the subject line.