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PhD Student Helps Graduate Students Improve Mental Health

Graduate school often feels like a test of your ability to juggle class, research, work, family, and friends. Sometimes the process is incredibly rewarding. Other times, it’s overwhelming and you feel like there are not enough hours in the day to complete everything. While trying to master the art of the graduate school juggle, it’s imperative that students emphasize their mental health and well-being and seek assistance when they feel overwhelmed, anxious, or down.

A PhD student at the University of Southern California is now leading the charge to improve the resources available to graduate students seeking mental health support. Gulnaz Kiper, a PhD candidate in Social Psychology, is working to expand TrojanSupport to graduate students. TrojanSupport was started last year by a team of undergraduate students and offers free peer-to-peer counseling to students, as well as mental health related talks and events. TrojanSupport is currently recruiting volunteer peer counselors and will start to assist graduate students in spring 2020.

Gulnaz Kiper, PhD Student and member of TrojanSupport

“The more I talked with my graduate student friends, the more I realized just how widespread mental health problems were,” said Kiper. “I noticed that there was a fundamental problem in the system and felt the urge to do something about it. I just did not feel comfortable going about my day and pretending this was all normal when I saw so many wonderful people around me suffering while trying to do good things for their careers and for the world.”

Kiper says she is deeply passionate about human psychology and wanted to do something to raise awareness about mental health, create a safe space and offer guidance on improving well-being.

“I am so happy I found the TrojanSupport organization when I did because what TrojanSupport will offer to grad students truly resonates with my values and passions,” said Kiper.

Gulnaz Kiper with other members of TrojanSupport

Kiper is helping to build TrojanSupport while in the midst of research for her PhD. Her work focuses on motivation and mindsets. She says she is currently studying a specific difficulty mindset called “difficult-as-sanctifying.” This is the belief that overcoming difficulties can build character and purify the self. Kiper says she is investigating how the endorsement of this mindset can improve performance on tasks by increasing resilience, add to a sense of purpose and meaning in life, and how it may change based on daily experiences. Kiper anticipates completing her PhD in May 2022. For more information on TrojanSupport visit their website or follow the organization on Instagram and Facebook. If you would like to get involved and become part of TrojanSupport, you can apply on the website.

USC also offers the following regular drop-in workshops to facilitate stress relief:

  • “Let’s Talk” on  Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in STU 422
  • “Well-being Wednesday” every Wednesday from 6-7 p.m. in TCC 222
  • “Thriving Thursdays” every Thursday from 12 – 1p.m. in TCC 222

If you are in need of urgent mental health assistance, walk-in to USC Student Health at Engemann or Eric Cogen Student Health Centers or call 213-740-WELL.