Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Celebrity role models for mental health conditions, and their analogous equivalent in academia

An article I read this morning, may be interesting to some people:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-22514215

Successful people disclosing a mental health condition can highlight its presence, and remove the stigmas associated. But does this raise expectations, both of those suffering, and those that surround them, that they too, can similarly achieve? And is this a bad thing or good thing?

I guess it's all about managing those expectations. Not everyone can be a Catherine Zeta Jones or Stephen Fry. Comparing this to academia, the role models for me, when I started my PhD were the professors, readers, senior lecturers, anyone in fact with a permanent position. They seemed to be in a different league, and somehow unapproachable. At a conference I attended (just to help out, not to present anything) I remember being starstruck, when I got to put faces to the names I had seen published. I remember having to use alcohol, just to start talking to some of these people, and making a fool of myself in the process.

Would they have seemed more approachable if they had disclosed a mental health condition too? Would their achievements have seemed more attainable? Would that have made me feel less useless about all the difficulties I was having at the time?

At the same time not everyone can get a permanent position in academia. There are so many PhD students for every professorial position. So where does that leave the depressed PhD student, with no role models and low expectations, and useless results?



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