Mental Health & Wellbeing
BBS Mission Statement on Health and Mental Wellbeing
The health and mental wellbeing of our students is a top priority of the BBS program. We recognize that stresses unique to the responsibilities of performing PhD-level research contribute to creating mental health challenges that are new or overwhelming. In the BBS community, we seek to dismantle the stigma associated with these commonly-encountered experiences. Our goal is to provide resources to encourage students to reach out and access a variety of available mental health support systems, without fear that it will be negatively viewed or impede their progress. The PhD journey is a marathon, and we believe that actively caring for students’ mental wellbeing is vital to ensure that they flourish as scientists.
Cornell Mental Health resources: BBS graduate students have access to a variety of professional mental health resources through Cornell Health. These include group counseling, individual counseling appointments, drop-in consultations, and skills-based workshops.
I grew up in California so moving to Ithaca was a huge career and environmental change. Seasonal depression and first year graduate student anxiety hit me very hard and I had difficulty focusing, staying motivated and felt stressed constantly. As a first year graduate student, I found myself feeling stressed, confused and sad quite often (more often than I ever felt in CA) so I began seeing a therapist at CAPS during my first fall semester. It was a relief to speak to someone freely about my concerns and obtain suggestions on how to best manage my anxiety and communicate my thoughts to my PI. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit and I found myself trying to find a 4th rotation, my anxiety kept me from eating and sleeping regularly so talking to family, friends and my therapist were the only things keeping me grounded. I would highly recommend using CAPS and seeing a therapist early on so you have a safe space to go when you're not sure what to do or how to handle a situation."
When I started graduate school I was unprepared for how much failure I would encounter. I thought if I just kept working harder things would fall into place. Lab became my whole life, something that is sadly not uncommon for most graduate students. My tipping point came when I suddenly lost two members of my family. In addition to burn out I now found myself swallowed by grief. It was at this rock bottom that I started speaking to a therapist and it changed my life, both personally and professionally. Grad school can be extremely rewarding and I have really enjoyed many aspects of it, but if I had a do-over I would have started seeing a therapist from my first year. We don’t talk enough about safeguarding our mental health in graduate school, which I think should be integral to the graduate school experience."
Every person goes through various challenges throughout graduate school, whether they are related to research, lab members, coursework, teaching, family, friends, and other personal aspects of life. These all impact our mental wellness and how we can operate from day to day. While I do reach out to my network of people I trust to help me navigate these difficult situations, I have found my counselor and mental health services to provide another space, perspective, and opportunity to process and tackle those challenges. Mental health services have been integral in changing my approach in life as well as my balance when juggling responsibilities both inside and outside of research. I can definitely say that without that support, I would not be where I am today."
As a first generation American-Mexican, I have had many adolescent insults that have impacted me and continue to influence me as an adult. These realizations however, only became apparent to me after initiating and continuously attending psychotherapy or talk therapy for almost a year. [....] This unfortunate upbringing resulted in an incapacitated ability to be vulnerable and handle my emotions in a healthy manner. I learned so much and gained so much inner peace by revisiting this and many other traumatic experiences of mine. As scientist we pride ourselves in having a very analytical way of thinking. Accepting that emotions are not linear or rationale at times, humbles you at the fact that evidence based research shows that talk therapy greatly increases the quality of one's life. Be proactive with your mental health. I highly encourage all students to establish a connection with a counselor here in Ithaca area or with Cornell. Be honest with yourself and be honest with your therapist and you will see that only good can come from talking about life through introspective thoughts. Be human, be sad, be happy and ultimately be kind to yourself."
I started seeing a caps counseling during my first year and they have been great at helping me manage several aspects of my life related to issues of being in grad school, dealing with imposter syndrome, and also coming to terms with personal issues relating to family and relationships."