Minding Mental Wellness

Physics Ph.D. student Andrea Welsh offers advice based on personal experience

The new school year is a good time to remind ourselves to take care of our mental health.

Mental health problems are on the rise. A 2014 survey of college counseling services – cited by the American Psychological Association – found that clients with severe psychological problems went up to 52%, from 44% the year before. The survey noted increases in anxiety disorder, crises, psychiatric medication issues, and clinical depression.

The good news is that mental health awareness is growing and spreading. Also good news is the acceptance that mental health needs are real and addressing them is essential for self-care.

Last summer, a research group at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) asked physics Ph.D. student Andrea Welsh to share her experiences as a graduate student grappling with mental health concerns.

A mental health advocate, Welsh attracted attention outside of Georgia Tech after she wrote about the subject in Physics Today. She told the research group at CERN that graduate students have unique vulnerabilities. Yet her tips for managing mental health are universal.

The CERN research group was looking for someone who has experienced mental health problems, Welsh says. “That was important for representation.” By representation, Welsh means how people grappling with mental health appear to others.

In high school, Welsh recalls, she saw depictions of people with depression as sleeping all the time and unable to get out of bed. She wasn’t like that. Yes, she cried a lot, her weight fluctuated, she had periods of high energy and bouts of low energy, and she couldn’t concentrate. But she was functional, attending school.

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A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
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