A Blueprint for Measuring and Improving Graduate Student Mental Health


We provide a step-by-step guide for developing, administering, evaluating, and acting on a survey-based study of graduate student mental health. Blueprint focuses on forging student-faculty collaboration and is based on Harvard University’s Graduate Student Mental Health Initiative (GSMHI). The survey tool we use includes validated screening instruments for depression, anxiety, imposter phenomenon, self-esteem, alcohol consumption, exercise and sleep habits, and loneliness. It also includes environmental questions that collect epidemiologic data, as well as ratings of advising relationships and student dynamics. After 6 years, GSMHI has analyzed data from 30 different PhD programs and 4,866 students, overseen the implementation of more than 60 departmental action plans, and performed 9 follow-up surveys to assess progress. It has achieved high response rates (60–90%), discovered wide variation in mental health and environmental factors across departments, and supported experiments with interventions. We hope this blueprint helps other universities run similar initiatives.

Journal of American College Health