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​PhD Balance: Graduate Student Mental Health

​Broadcast Date: July 26, 2021

As highlighted in a recent article published in Science on September 4th, the COVID pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health of our graduate students. The article cites a survey of approximately 4,000 domestic-based Ph.D. students conducted from May to July of 2020. This survey reports an increase of 13% in generalized anxiety disorder and 19% in major depressive disorder compared to 2019. Additionally, another article in Nature published in 2019 reports their own survey where they showed that 36% of the 6,300 graduate students surveyed had sought help for anxiety or depression related to their Ph.D.

Students can find it difficult to seek out help for their mental health. They might even see their struggle as part of the Ph.D. process. When mental health resources are available on campuses, they are often focused solely on the needs of undergraduate students.

Ph.D. Balance is a collaborative community empowering graduate students to build their personal and professional resilience. Their IDEALS team leader (inclusivity-diversity-equity-accessibility-leadership) Niba Nirmal will discuss Graduate Student Mental Health, including the stigma around mental health (emphasis on graduate school), barriers to care/treatment, creating a community of support, strategies for resilience, and the intersection of COVID-19 and graduate student mental health. There will also be time throughout the talk for personal reflection activities, as well as Q&A at the end of the talk.

The webinar will focus on the following aspects:

  • Stigma around mental health (emphasis on graduate school)
  • Barriers to care/treatment
  • Creating a community of support
  • Strategies for resilience
  • The intersection of COVID-19 and graduate student mental health

On-Demand Video




Niba Nir​mal

​PhD Balance


Niba Nirmal (she/her) is a multimedia science communicator and the IDEALs (inclusivity-diversity-equity-accessibility-leadership) team leader at PhD Balance.

She creates scientific content through articles, photos, videos, and social media with organizations including PBS NOVA, Seeker, and Stanford. Her personal project @NotesByNiba explores the science in cosmetics, fashion, and skincare through YouTube and Instagram. She is a 2021 AAAS Mass Media Fellow, 2020 Jackson Wild Film Fellow, and 2020 STEM Advocacy Institute Fellow.

She holds a B.S. in Genetics and Genomics from UC Davis, where she studied the effects of climate change on crops. She also holds a double minor in Toxicology and Diversity Studies. She received her M.S. in Genetics from Duke University, graduating with the class of 2020. Her graduate work researched the genetics, form, and function of plant roots.

Learn more about her work.​ Niba is based in the territory of the Ramaytush Ohlone land also known as San Francisco, California.