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The month of October is designated as a time to promote mental health awareness and overall well-being. October 10th annually marks World Mental Health Day, an occasion dedicated to raising global awareness about mental health challenges and dismantling the stigma associated with mental illness. This year, the theme for World Mental Health Day was “mental health is a universal human right,” which emphasized the need for greater accessibility for mental health care.

Year round, and not just in October, The Graduate School aims to offer resources for students, faculty, and staff needing support or who wish to focus on improving their mental well-being.

It is particularly vital to have access to resources in order to recover and heal from traumatic incidents. In light of recent events impacting our community—such as the violence on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus at the start of the fall 2023 semester, continued global conflict, and political unrest—it's even more vital to prioritize well-being and to seek support when needed. 

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Yan Li participates in activity at Mental Health Awareness Event
Dean Yan Li participates in a game with graduate
students at the 2023 Mental Health Awareness event
sponsored by The Graduate School.  

Customizing Mental Health Resources for Graduate Students

Yan Li, the associate dean for graduate programs, is spearheading efforts to tailor mental health resources specifically for graduate students. In the previous year, The Graduate School offered mindfulness training sessions for graduate students, which could be attended either in person or online. This collaboration with the Mindfulness Institute for Emerging Adults touched the lives of nearly 70 graduate students, with overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants.

"The topic of wellness and mental health is paramount to me as a psychologist and an educator," says Dean Li. "Wellness and mental health promotion reduce the stigma associated with seeking help and encourages vulnerability and authentic human connection."

TGS also wants to hear directly from Duke's graduate student community about what mental health resources would best serve their needs. That's where the Wellness Fund comes into play—a platform for students to propose innovative programs that promote mental health awareness, well-being, or enhancement for the entire Duke graduate student community.

Through the Wellness Fund, graduate students are encouraged to send their ideas for new mental health programs and apply for funding via email at grad-gsa@duke.edu. 

"Graduate school can be incredibly demanding, often requiring long hours of study, research, and writing," says Dean Li. "A 2018 Harvard study concluded that graduate students are over three times more likely than the average American to experience mental illness and depression. Prioritizing wellness and mental health are a proactive and preventative measure to help graduate students cope with these demands. I hope the Graduate School Wellness Initiatives help create a more supportive and understanding environments for all graduate students."

Supporting Mental Health in Challenging Times

Whether it's mental health counseling, group support systems, or mindfulness resources, Duke Graduate School’s wellness resources are designed to foster a culture where it’s acceptable to ask for help. These resources are aimed at not only addressing current concerns but also proactively equipping students with the tools to maintain their mental well-being.

These resources are regularly shared with the graduate student community through The Graduate School’s various communication channels—the common "list of resources" found at the bottom of messaging. Despite this repetition, it is crucial to reiterate that help is readily available for those facing challenges.

Below are several resources that graduate students are encouraged to explore. 

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

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Headshot of Lisa Adams

CAPS serves as a cornerstone for students in managing mounting stress and dealing with situations best addressed by trained mental health professionals. Their dedicated staff not only offers individual support but also provides guidance on how to be there for peers who may need assistance.

In light of World Mental Health Day, Lisa Adams, the director of CAPS, affirmed their commitment to destigmatizing mental health at Duke:

“CAPS utilizes a dual approach for promoting mental health awareness: increasing our campus programming efforts and continuing to develop relationships with CAPS partners via liaison roles. CAPS places emphasis in outreach to students who identify as being from groups that have been systematically and historically excluded, and for whom there are more barriers to care. In this vein, we combat stigma by highlighting the incorporation of mental health care as normative for academic, personal, and career development.”

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Students meditate at the wellness center
Students participate in a mindfulness activity.

The Duke Student Wellness Center

Taking a holistic approach to well-being, the Student Wellness Center addresses various life dimensions, including financial, social, spiritual, intellectual, mind-body wellness, and the surrounding environment. Their comprehensive approach includes individual services, group outreach initiatives, and consultation services. The center also serves as a central hub of wellness-related information, equipping students with valuable resources for their overall well-being.

Blue Devils Care

Operating as a 24/7 mental telehealth service, Blue Devils Care stands ready to provide counseling and support to students facing mental distress or crisis. To access this free service, students can visit BlueDevilsCare.duke.edu and register using their Duke email address.