It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative – whichever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.” – Sylvia Plath
At the age of 19, the esteemed author Sylvia Plath attempted suicide and was later sent to receive electroshock therapy for her depression. These experiences became the basis of her famed semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, a haunting book that encapsulates Plath’s anguish, violent torrents of emotion and her fascination and courtship with death. After numerous more failed attempts, Sylvia Plath committed suicide at the age of 30. Her brilliant and tragic life serves as a reminder of the long road we have taken since the days of dismissing depression as hysterical neurosis and as a grim warning of the fatal consequences of inaction and ignorance.
In this issue of IMMpress, we open a discussion on mental health. In addition to articles exploring the biological and environmental determinants of wellbeing, you can find interwoven throughout the magazine a number of personal pieces penned by graduate students on their struggles with life – both in and out of academia. We are grateful to them for making this issue of IMMpress more than just a collection of statistics, allowing us to view mental health through a prism that puts names and faces to everyday struggles. We profoundly thank them for their courage in publicly sharing their stories and hope that their strength helps reduce the stigma that stubbornly shrouds this discourse.
As usual, we would like to acknowledge the numerous writers, editors, and designers. This is also the first issue with our new Co-Editor-in-Chief, Sintia Xhiku, who has been an enthusiastic and steadfast contributor to the magazine this past year. This magazine would not be possible without the dedication of the entire IMMpress team. This declaration of gratitude rings particularly true in this issue, as we extend our thanks to the entire Immunology community, especially the faculty and students who contributed to our “Letters to my former self”.
While most of the conversation surrounding mental health in academia focuses on students, we often neglect the enormous weight that academia also places on their faculty. In a culture where worth is determined by impact factors and survival is predicated upon publishing, the ever-disappearing funds and increasing competition only compound the toll that science can take on its community.
Since we announced the theme of this issue we experienced an unprecedented outpour of support and interest from the department. However, a conversation on mental wellbeing cannot be something that is featured once in a magazine and soon forgotten after the publicity dissipates. We hope that this issue sparks a long-lasting discussion about mental health in the department, liberates those currently struggling from the solitude of silence, and encourages us all to keep our hearts open and shoulders strong for those who need it.