James Pinkerton, President of NUPSA, gives his monthly update.


 

Hi all.

This year is moving extremely fast, which from a thesis writing perspective is slightly scary. As I write this article, I am getting ready to submit the first draft of my thesis to my supervisor. It’s a strange sensation as I am a little worried (particularly about whether I have done enough work), but mostly I’m feeling quite excited.

When I began writing, I, like many others, was terrified of the blank space in front of me. However, with a little advice from some colleagues and friends, I began to break down my work into segments and focus on one little bit at a time. As someone who is prone to procrastination, I have begun using the Pomodoro technique for my writing – which has been an absolute lifesaver.

For those of you who haven’t been to our Shut Up and Write sessions, the Pomodoro method is a writing technique to use over two-hour blocks. You write for 25 minutes, then ‘procrastinate’ for five minutes – and repeat. You do this for two hours, and then allow yourself a little extra break time before beginning the next block. Personally, I have found this technique to be an amazing method to help focus my mind, and I recommend it to anyone who likes to distract themselves a little too often. I would love to hear about your results.

 

When I began writing my thesis, I was terrified of the blank space in front of me.

 

Moving on to NUPSA, it has been an extremely busy month for us. Even with Easter and ANZAC Day we somehow managed to cram in quite a lot of events. This month, outside of our usual workshops and social events, we saw the first Thank God It’s Friday (TGIF) social get-together. This event has been something the NUPSA Executive has been talking about for a long time, and essentially we wanted to create an informal space for postgraduate students to meet on a Friday afternoon. It’s a chance to throw down your pens or lab coats and say hi to some fellow postgrads. I’d like to thank everybody who attended the first event. It was a fantastic turnout and I hope to see you all at the next one, with some more postgraduate friends.

 

It’s important to take time away from study – come say hi
at our next TGIF gathering on Friday, May 19.

Last week, NUPSA also participated in Mental Health Day. This annual event is aimed at raising mental health awareness, as well as looking to equip everyone with the tools and knowledge necessary to help them manage their own mental health. This year’s Mental Health Day coincided with the publication of a significant scientific paper, published in Research Policy, which found that PhD students face significant mental health challenges. The paper found that over half of the respondents experienced at least two symptoms of mental health in recent weeks. Around a third experienced at least four symptoms, which ranged from feelings of constant strain, being unhappy and depressed, losing sleep and an inability to enjoy day-to-day activities.

So what factors contribute to poor mental health in PhD students? According to this study, it is due to work-family balance, as well as high job demand and poor job control. However, the paper did find that a good supervisor was critical to mental health. It also found that there was a benefit for mental health when students perceived their PhD as a means of good preparation for a non-academic career, and as having added value for employers.

These findings are absolutely crucial and highlight the importance of a supportive supervisor in respect to mental health. They also demonstrate the need for universities to ensure that PhD graduates receive training which is beneficial for entry into the non-academic workforce. Importantly, the findings highlight the need for mental health services to be available and accessible for all PhD students.

If you or any friends are having difficulties with mental health, we encourage the use of the University’s Counselling Service. Lifeline offers crisis support and suicide prevention services, and they can be reached at 13 11 44. Alternatively, Beyond Blue is a support service focused on anxiety and depression – they can be reached at 1300 22 4636.

 

We are here for you and it’s important that you tell us how we can help!
Thanks for coming along to the 2017 NUPSA AGM.

Lastly, I would like to thank all our members who attended the NUPSA AGM on the 5th of May. NUPSA as an organisation only exists to serve its members. It’s extremely important that you have a voice in your student organisation and the AGM is the best opportunity for this voice to be heard. I would like to thank my Executive and fantastic staff members for helping organise this important event. I would also like to thank the Dean of Students for making time to speak to the NUPSA members.

Back to my dungeon to finish my first draft of my thesis.

Take care all.

James

 

Contact James at james.pinkerton@uon.edu.au.

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