By Natasha Bradley, PhD student, Institute of Psychology, Health and Society
Would you like to join a peer support group for PhD students at the University of Liverpool?
Recent research into the wellbeing and unmet support needs of PhD students has suggested that a high proportion struggle with poor mental health, loneliness and isolation during their studies. A small team of PhD students from across the university are working with the LDC Development Team to improve the wellbeing of postgraduate research students by establishing new opportunities for peer support.
Everyone in the team has their own experience and reasons for getting involved. For me, my research project explores the importance of social support interventions for those managing life-limiting or terminal illness. This means that I’m well aware of the short-term and indirect consequences of loneliness for both mental and physical health as well as responses to stress. I know that peer support can be immensely worthwhile. When people are facing a challenge, it is helpful to have a network of people that can empathise with the experience – whether the challenge is a severe illness, an unruly PhD project, or a less than ideal supervisory relationship – talking to people in the same boat can help a lot!
We decided to launch a peer support group after seeking the perspectives of fellow students using a focus group. The focus group was attending by PGRs working in a range of research areas, and explored the challenges involved in doing a PhD at this university and discussed the supportive resources that are currently available. Focus group attendees identified wellbeing issues from their PhD experiences and provided recommendations for future support. There is a high degree of loneliness and uncertainty in doing a PhD, and it is not always clear who is best to approach for impartial support and advice. The good news is that there appears to be some common ground amongst students in the causes and consequences of stress. This means that PGRs are likely to benefit from sharing their concerns with each other and problem-solving as a group through a supportive peer network.
These conversations have informed our new approach for this academic year. We’re aiming to provide opportunities for PhD students to develop a supportive peer network, through regular group sessions. The peer support group will hold meetings off campus, focusing on a different theme each session – ranging from practical issues in academia and project management, to wellbeing threats and strategies for resilience.
We’ll be launching this new approach during Research Development Week. Come along to an informal session to meet the team involved and contribute to organisational decisions. All current PhD students are welcome, and we particularly invite those in the middle and later stages of their PhD.
Peer Support for PGRs – introductory session
Thursday 11 October 2018
11:00 – 12:30
Lunch is included
The event is free but please register in advance at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/peer-support-for-pgrs-registration-49841850316
If you are unable to attend the opening session, please feel free to express your interest in the initiative by contacting Natasha Bradley at: firstname.lastname@example.org.