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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: The mental labyrinth of postgraduate research: a qualitative study of postgraduate mental health and wellbeing and the impact of the supervisory relationship
Author(s): White, Naomi
Milicev, Jelena
Bradford, Daniel R R
Rodger, Amy
Gardani, Maria
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Keywords: Student mental health
Doctoral students
Supervisory relationship
Mental wellbeing
Issue Date: 20-Jun-2023
Date Deposited: 21-Jun-2023
Citation: White N, Milicev J, Bradford DRR, Rodger A & Gardani M (2023) The mental labyrinth of postgraduate research: a qualitative study of postgraduate mental health and wellbeing and the impact of the supervisory relationship. <i>Higher Education</i>.
Abstract: Postgraduate research students (PGRs) experience disproportionately high levels of psychological distress. Many factors contribute to this poor mental wellbeing and relate to each other in complex and dynamic ways. However, the relationship between PGRs and their supervisor(s) is known to strongly affect the wellbeing of the former. This study explores the mental health and wellbeing of PGRs with a focus on the role of the student—supervisor relationship. Using combined qualitative data from a large survey of PGRs and focus groups and reflexive thematic analysis, we found that PGRs experience the overarching process of obtaining a research degree as a mental labyrinth. Three constituent themes were identified: (1) inequity in navigating the labyrinth, (2) the labyrinth as a place of uncertainty and isolation, and (3) supervisors as labyrinth guides, not mental care providers. The results suggest that significant inequities exist which contribute to poorer mental wellbeing in particular subgroups of PGRs, both in general and specifically in relation to the supervisory relationship. Experiences of loneliness and ambiguity around progress were also identified as being detrimental to mental health. Furthermore, although supervisors can be a vital source of support and have a positive influence on PGR mental health, students recognise supervisors cannot reasonably be expected to act as professional mental health care providers and institutions must do more to provide equitable access to mental health support services.
DOI Link: 10.1007/s10734-023-01061-5
Rights: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.
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