Mental health goes beyond major, life-debilitating problems, such as depression or OCD. We all have a mind! So we can benefit from a healthy mind. Like an itchy throat might signal the start of a cold, frequent problems might signal underlying mental health issues (e.g. feeling angry very often, or constantly being upset that you ‘should have known’ how to handle a situation.) And just like you’re better off in the long run addressing the cold before it really starts, it can be extremely beneficial to your wellbeing to work on improving your mental health. Most people still believe you only need to see a therapist if you have a serious mental health issue. But, ideally, one goes to the doctor to get regular checkups to find out whether anything needs a little help. Mental health should be thought of in the same way: checking in on how our mental space is doing is important even during times of calm.
You’ve probably heard at some point that getting a PhD is hard. Perhaps whoever told you this didn’t explain what they meant: grad school is hard not only because you have to do a lot of work, but it is also psychologically and emotionally difficult. You are on a knowledge quest all on your own, exploring territory that nobody else is, and this quest can feel isolating and strenuous.
Establishing a relationship with a therapist is especially important during this time. The earlier you can find a therapist you like, the better, especially since the strain of grad school is likely to increase as you progress. This is an aspect of mental health that is rarely mentioned, but that is central: not all therapists are the same and therapy is much more effective if you find a therapist you like and work well with. A therapist that doesn’t see eye-to-eye can do more harm than good. If you’re in the thick of a bad mental health episode, it is especially difficult to gather the energy to find a new therapist, which is why we recommend that you work to find somebody you like as early as you can after moving to a new place. If you are struggling and find it hard to go through the process of finding a therapist, it’s ok to ask a trusted friend or family member to help or even to set up an appointment for you.