First aid for mental health problems

University of Jena sets up mental health first aid team and provides information on mental health on a new website

Working in science can lead to a high level of psychological stress. A large study from Belgium, for example, showed that the risk of doctoral researchers developing depression or other mental illnesses is significantly increased. Under pandemic conditions, the stress situation of many doctoral students has become even worse. "The University of Jena has reacted to this development," explains Uwe Cantner, Vice-President for Young Researchers and Diversity Management at the University of Jena. "We have set up a team that provides mental health first aid and created a website on promoting mental health during the doctorate."

The Mental Health First Aid team consists of specially trained first aiders who act as an important first point of contact for those with concerns about their mental health to provide immediate help in an uncomplicated manner. "The team hails from a wide variety of our institutions and is available to doctoral candidates, postdocs and all other university employees," explains Cantner.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised programme developed in Australia for the early intervention of mental health problems. In Germany, it is administered by the Mannheim Central Institute for Mental Health with funding from the Beisheim Foundation. In Jena, the programme was championed by the Jena School of Microbial Communication (JSMC). "The University of Jena is the first university in Germany to offer such a first aid team for young scientists and employees," reports JSMC’s Scientific Manager Dr Hendrik Huthoff, who himself is a member of the MHFA team at the University of Jena.

To make its services more visible, the University of Jena has also compiled all the information on mental health and dealing with crises on a website. It shows which crises can occur during the doctorate and which contact points there are at the university and in the city. It also presents various services offered by the university to help you find a good work-life balance and to network with other doctoral students.

The Friedrich Schiller University of Jena has also been offering various prevention measures for some time to support its employees and researchers in self-care and attention to their mental health ( link ). Students can also find various counselling and support services in the area of mental health at the Studierendenwerk ( link ).


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