On World Mental Health Day, BIST shares tips for wellbeing in a scientific research environment

By October 10, 2023BIST Community

This October 10 is World Mental Health Day. To help show the importance of mental health in the scientific research environment, BIST and the BIST Community centres are sharing tips and strategies for researchers to prioritise their wellbeing. These come from psychotherapists that work as part of the WellBIST programme, which aims to provide a supportive and healthy work environment in the BIST Community.

Postdoctoral researchers from the BIST Community participate in a “Leadership in Action” course in 2018.

World Mental Health Day is an initiative organised by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). It takes place every year on October 10 with the aim of raising awareness among individuals, communities, institutions, and stakeholders globally of the importance of mental health. This year’s theme “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right” aims to put mental health in a human rights framework.

The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) and the seven BIST Community research centres have joined forces this year to raise awareness of the importance of mental health, with a focus on wellbeing in the scientific research environment.

The fact that researchers endure high levels of stress is not a new finding. We have known for years that graduate students question their career options and many report being depressed, and that a number of postdoctoral researchers feel disenchanted with their work life. Studies have been showing a rise in the diagnoses of anxiety, depression, and other related disorders. This might be just the tip of the iceberg, as for many years unhealthy behaviours have been normalised, and the importance of maintaining healthy environments and lifestyles has been overlooked.

The scientific research environment in the BIST Community is no different. From students to group leaders, researchers are faced with complex challenges that go beyond the work itself and extend into their personal and professional wellbeing.

To mark World Mental Health Day, BIST and the BIST Centres are publishing a tips campaign on Twitter, with recommendations from psychotherapists for better wellbeing in the research environment:

  1. “Negative emotions together with positive ones make up who we are. They are all valid. Denying, avoiding or hyper-controlling them can cause more discomfort in the long term. There are times when we must accept and learn to move through them” – Ariadna Garcia, psychologist.
  2. Being a good social problem solver contributes to greater wellbeing, both inside and outside of the laboratory. Psychotherapist Romina Bassignani shares some tips on how to build this skill:
    • Work together to identify and understand the problem “What is bothering the two of us?”
    • Express one idea then stop and allow the other person to respond.
    • Try to see things from their perspective.
    • Do not dwell on the past or try to blame each other. Focus on right now and the future.
    • Consider brainstorming (considering as many options as possible) in order to increase the number of alternatives.
    • Allow for several attempts at implementing the new solutions.
  3. “Academics experience many emotions every day including frustration, insecurity, discouragement and overwhelm. In response, acceptance and self-compassion can help focus our energy on prioritising healthy habits and adjusting our expectations” – Marie Trussart, Career Coach.
  4. “Seek Professional Help: If you feel that your mood is negatively affecting your life and you cannot manage it on your own, consider seeking help from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or therapist” –Mia Torrente, psychologist.

The psychotherapists are part of the WellBIST programme, which was launched for the BIST Community earlier this year with the aim of fostering a supportive and healthy work environment. The programme offers members of the BIST Community individual sessions with accredited psychotherapists, as well as a variety of group workshops and seminars that range from managing stress to strengthening communication skills to mindfulness, and more.

Learn more:
WellBIST Programme
World Mental Health Day