Make sure ECRs know that it’s OK not to be OK
Use brief “temperature checks” at the beginning of group meetings to get a sense of how everyone is doing and whether people are feeling overwhelmed.
- Small groups: You might ask each person to briefly share how they’re doing (e.g., “I have experiments all week and I’m looking forward to having data”; “My child is sick so it’s been a difficult week”; “My brain is fried from too many meetings”). Start by sharing how you are doing and acknowledge that you also sometimes feel tired and overwhelmed. Offer a “pass” option for people who aren’t comfortable sharing.
- Larger groups: You might ask people which numbered image in a collage best describes everyone’s mood (e.g., emojis, cats, weather forecast, or create your own lab themed mood board). This can be done by raising hands or entering an image number in the chat.
Here are two example Powerpoint collages.
Provide a list of services that team members can easily find if they are in crisis. PIs and supervisors aren’t trained mental health professionals and aren't expected to know how to handle mental health crises. Providing a list of services in highly visible place makes it easier for team members to get help and lets them know that their mental health is important to the group.
Scholar Minds, and initiative organized by early careers researchers, has created a list of resources and steps for seeking help in Berlin, Germany.
Promote and model behaviors related to good mental health: Be a role model by engaging in or sharing practices that improve your mental health, such as time “offline”, taking breaks, or going outside. This is an important acknowledgement that mental health should be a priority for everyone.
Tackle mental health in a journal club. If you are part of a journal club, consider sharing a paper on mental health. This could be field-specific or a general look at mental health in academia or academic medicine.
Here are three “conversation starting” papers on mental health in academia: