National award for postgraduates’ mental health toolkit

A tool to help postgraduates thrive in their studies while prioritising their mental health has been recognised with a national award.

The Researcher Toolkit, designed and piloted at the University of Plymouth, has won the FindAUniversity Award for the best Postgrad Wellbeing Initiative.

The project, funded by the Office for Students, was created to help postgraduate researchers, who are particularly at risk of experiencing mental ill health, research shows.

The awards received 270 entries, and the Postgrad Awards judges said that: “Plymouth's researcher wellbeing toolkit is specifically aimed at the needs of postgraduate students and will have a wider impact across other institutions who choose to take it on board.”

The Toolkit comprises five Researcher Development workshops, co-created by postgraduate researchers and mental health experts. The workshops contain key research skills and tips for postgraduate research students – but repackage them within overarching messages about wellbeing, work-life balance, good working practice, and self-care.

The workshops can be delivered in person or online, and are always delivered by a postgraduate researcher to benefit from peer-to-peer support. The workshop content is free and can be adapted to any higher education setting. It is designed to be self-sustaining – with PGR Workshop Leaders able to train up their successors.

Dr Sophie Homer, a Lecturer in Psychology who led the toolkit’s creation following her own PhD, said: 

“We wanted to create something that could make a genuine difference to people and be used across the UK. Mental health is a really important issue for students, and postgraduate research students are a particularly unique and diverse group, who might experience stigma in accessing support. We wanted to take a preventative approach and create something that would help to build a sense of community and to foster positive research culture. We are absolutely thrilled to have won this award, and want to ensure that every institution who wants to use the Toolkit is able to access it.”