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Mental Health for PhD students


PhD students experience alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety and stress, as shown in numerous studies worldwide. As graduate students, our risk of experiencing mental health issues is 6 times greater than for the general population1. Almost half of graduate students are depressed2, many reporting “more-than-average” or “tremendous” levels of stress connected to education, work, and financial concerns related to PhD studies3. Although Spain is considered to be one of the happiest countries in Europe, PhD students in Spain experience a considerable degree of burnout, especially emotional exhaustion4. And although those with higher education studies overall show a greater prevalence of mental health issues, among them, PhD students are the most affected5. Still, many of us are shy to talk about these issues and share our experiences.

To start this conversation, we will host a virtual panel on Mental Health and PhD. We want to remove the stigma around mental health and therapy and bring to light where many of these issues originate from. Four experts, with varying backgrounds, will discuss topics related to mental health in academia, focusing on the PhD journey.

The speakers will share actionable advice on how to cope with the stress, depression and anxiety that are so prevalent among PhDs. We will learn how to deal with fear of failure and imposter syndrome and explore where procrastination comes from and how it is linked to perfectionism. 

This panel is organised solely for the PhD students at IRB Barcelona. To ensure safety and anonymity during interactions with the audience, the panel will include options for anonymous answers and questions. Please note that the panel will be held in English.

  1. Evans, T., Bira, L., Gastelum, J. et al. Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nat Biotechnol 36, 282–284 (2018). 
  2. Graduate Student Happiness & Well-Being Report (2014). 
  3. Smith, E. & Brooks, Z. Graduate student mental health 2015. University of Arizona, Graduate & Professional Student Council (2015)
  4. Sorrel, M., Martínez-Huertas, J. & Arconada, M. It Must have been Burnout: Prevalence and Related Factors among Spanish PhD Students. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 23, E29 (2020).  
  5. Levecque, K., Anseel, F., De Beuckelaer, A., Van der Heyden, J. & Gisle, L. Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students. Res. Policy 46, 868–879 (2017). 

Panel: "Mental Health for PhD students"

Speakers: Ana Gutierrez Guillén, Anna Houstecka, Chris Barratt, and Ramón Nogueras Pérez.

Organisers: IRB Student Council, PeacehD

Date and Time: Tuesday 9 February 2021, 10:00 - 12:00

Format: Online (restricted to PhD students of the IRB Barcelona community)

Register here

poster.pdf (191.21 KB)


10:00-10:15 - Introduction of the panel, moderator, and panel members.

10:15-11:00 - Part I

- Specificities of academia and PhD and connection to mental health pressures
- Anxiety and depression, feeling lost & loneliness
- Fear of failure and Perfectionism
- Discussion and questions.

11:00-11:10 - Break and a mini questionnaire: Let’s have coffee together!

11:10-12:00 - Part II

- Imposter Syndrome
- Procrastination
- Relationships at work (PI/colleagues)
- Expectations about career options & recognizing alternatives to academia
- Summary, Seeking help (when, how to, approaches…) and other solutions
- Discussion and questions.


Ana Gutiérrez Guillén

Ana Gutiérrez is a systemic and family psychotherapist. She has been linked to academia for the last 10 years. Ana worked as a research assistant for three years at the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University Pompeu Fabra and later as a coordinator of the Babylab. For the last 7 years, she has worked as a clinical psychotherapist, accompanying PhD students and helping them with their struggles during the PhD journey.  

Anna Houstecka

Anna Houstecka has recently been awarded a PhD in Economics in Barcelona. Through her personal experience in therapy in recent years, she discovered the importance of taking care of mental health. This has benefited her in all areas of her life, and especially during her PhD. Her experience led her to set up PeacehD, where she shares her experiences with others, discusses the most common issues PhD students face and creates PhD support groups. PeacehD also offers several options that can help students improve their PhD experience, with the assistance of professionals. 

Chris Barratt

Chris is a psychotherapist specialised in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with an interest in Mindfulness and a member of the British Psychological Society. He graduated with an honours degree in psychology in the UK and worked for many years in the UK in the mental health field, helping people with a wide range of mental health issues, as well as their carers. Now he lives in Barcelona, where he completed a Masters in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. As a therapist, Chris helps people with a wide range of difficulties in their lives, with a particular interest in mood and anxiety issues. 

Ramón Nogueras Pérez

Ramón Nogueras is a psychologist, science communicator and university professor who teaches about psychology using an ungodly amount of swearing. He is enthusiastic about the science of behaviour and loves to dispel the myth that Psychology can't be a science because human behaviour is such a mystery. He lives in Barcelona with his wife, his two daughters and two cats.