Experience by Design

Wendy Ingram and Mental Health in Academia

Episode Summary

Wendy Ingram knew that a way to make a difference was through addressing a topic few discuss: mental health in academia. Through her own experiences and personal tragedy, Wendy, along with a team of volunteers, created the organization Dragonfly Mental Health. Through online services as well as consulting services, Dragonfly helps academics and academic organizations improve individual and organizational mental wellness. We talk about the creation of Dragonfly, her work with zombie insects, academia being the original Instagram, and how to create a 'heart space' at work.

Episode Notes

Despite being summer, it is a fallacy that academics get summers off. Especially in a pandemic year, it can feel like the pressures and stresses of academic work have been compounded. Making the transition to remote teaching provided its own unique challenges. On top of that are all of the requirements of the academic life. Committee work. Advising students, Doing research. Writing papers. Dealing with rejection and reviewer comments. It is enough to challenge even the most dedicated and patient professionals. While I wouldn’t place it in the category of being a roofer in the middle of summer, the academic life does have its own challenges and tribulations. 

Thankfully, our next guest has an outlet to help academics with their mental health and wellness. Dr. Wendy Ingram started to become concerned with the impact of academia on mental health as a graduate student. From what she saw around her with their peers, as well as a personal tragedy, Wendy saw the need for mental health services for academics. This, along with the reality that 50-60% of academics struggle with mental health issues, led her to create Dragonfly Mental Health, a mental health organization dedicated to academics whether graduate students or full professors. 

Calling academia the original Instagram, where all you see is the good stuff, we talk about the challenges of being constantly in a ‘headspace’ versus a ‘heart space.’ She discusses how academics need an outlet to discuss their mental struggle, how they work with universities and departments to create better mental health environments, how they have grown to over 160 volunteers in 25 or so countries, along with weekly virtual support sessions, and how to connect passions of purpose with metrics of worth.