Washington Update

FASEB Praises NASEM Mental Health Report, Hopes for Further Engagement

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm
Wednesday, March 24, 2021

On March 22, FASEB transmitted a letter to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) commending the recent report, “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Wellbeing in Higher Education: Support the Whole Student.” The publication created a strong foundation of reasoning why higher education communities must change the culture that contributes to an increasing incidence of mental health and wellbeing concerns among students. The report focused on cross-cutting issues likely to support the most students and, therefore, a majority of recommendations are aimed at higher education institutions. FASEB encouraged further engagement with professional societies and federal agencies, as well as a deeper dive into these issues for the entire research community, including graduate students, clinician-scientists in training, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty.

Specifically, FASEB highlighted leaves of absence as a particularly tricky area to navigate for graduate students who are participating in research intensive programs as both students and workers. While there is usually precedent for taking leave from coursework, the process for taking leave as a student researcher can be complex. Data collected on challenges graduate students face regarding leaves of absence would be beneficial to create leave policies that accommodate these student workers.

Additionally, FASEB is interested in further exploration of non-medical use of prescription stimulants and alcohol use in graduate student and clinician-scientist in training populations. The NASEM report touches on these topics for undergraduates, but little data at higher educational and career levels exists. Alcohol is particularly pervasive in academic culture and a nuanced assessment of functional alcoholism in graduate students may be enlightening.

Overall, FASEB is grateful for the work of the NASEM Committee and hopes to see the scope of this effort expanded to analyze mental health, substance use, and wellbeing issues faced by all individuals in the research environment.