Grad’s Mental Makeover


Grad School

Grad school has its unique stresses and worries...

Time to learn how to take care of your mind!


The 2004 Berkeley Graduate Student Mental Health survey indicates that almost half of graduate students at Berkeley report having emotional or stress-related problems that seriously affect their well-being.  Almost 10% have seriously considered suicide, and approximately 1 in 200 students have attempted suicide [1].  A similar study at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in 2004 indicated that 44% of their graduate students suffered from either a depressive or anxiety disorder, 48% from a sleep disorder, and 18% reported suicidal tendencies [5].  Both surveys also conclude that women graduate students report significantly more mental health struggles than the men graduates.

It is essential that women graduate students be equipped with skills for dealing with the emotions brought on by the stress, financial difficulties, and life changes of graduate school.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) created by Dr. Marsha Linehan offers just such practical coping skills that have been shown to be effective in lowering stress, anxiety, and depression [2][3]. These skills have been taught nation-wide through workshops and group sessions, and skills manuals and worksheets are available [4].  DBT skills are divided into four units:

Core Mindfulness skills focus on effective and deliberate decision making which balance the facts of a situation as well as the emotions associated with that situation. 

Stress Management and Distress Tolerance skills focus on practical ways of managing stress and decreasing debilitating distress.

Emotion Management skills focus on learning to identify and manage our emotions and emotion- generated thoughts.

Interpersonal Effectiveness skills focus on getting what you want and need from others, while enhancing the relationship and maintaining self respect.

Many of the skills that are a part of DBT are directly applicable to women in graduate school.  The well-known problems reported by women graduates such as “Imposter Syndrome” can be addressed using the practical tools of DBT.  Knowledge of these techniques not only can give women the endurance needed to complete graduate school, but can also help women stay healthy and happy during this most stressing of times.


[1] Berkeley Graduate Student Mental Health Survey, Report by the Berkeley Graduate and Professional Schools Mental Health Task Force  (2004)

[2] Linehan, M.  Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. The Guilford Press, New York, NY, 1993.

[3] Linehan, M., Armstrong, H., Suarez, A., Allmon, D. & Heard, H. Cognitive-behavioural treatment of chronically parasuicidal borderline patients. Archives of General Psychiatry, 48 (1991), 1060-1064.

[4] Linehan, M.  Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. The Guilford Press, New York, NY, 1993.



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