This morning’s Chronicle of Higher Education included a piece called “Dark Thoughts,” which discussed the reasons why mental illness is on the rise in academia – in response to a Guardian blog post about a culture of acceptance of mental health issues in the profession. The original post talked openly about mental health issues PhD students suffer, and the unique, isolating situation of (increasingly competitive) PhD programs and junior faculty positions. It used examples of suicides among academics struggling with those issues. The response suggested that there are a number of pressures on not only graduate students but academics generally that are increasing in recent years. Amanda Murdie’s recent (very thoughtful) piece at the Duck of Minerva served as an excellent reminder of the importance of mental health for academics, both generally and as it is linked to productivity.
As I read this very important discussion, I still saw something missing. I kept remembering the feminist understanding that the personal is political and its inverse that the political is personal. I think that it is important to relate that observation to the discussion of mental health in academia. There are a lot of ways in this field that the personal is academic and the academic is personal.