SAM to support Postgraduate Researchers’ (PGRs) Mental Health


Doing research can cause anxiety and stress, with important deadlines, pressure to publish, financial pressures and pressure from funders. In addition, being the only one working in your research can cause loneliness and isolation. All this, together with the challenges of combining academic, family and employment commitments may negatively impact PGRs’ mental health and wellbeing.Research has shown that one in two research students experience psychological distress, and one in three is at risk of a common psychiatric disorder [1].

The recent COVID-19 pandemic situation has had an unprecedented impact on many aspects of the research students’ life with many concerned about the completion and quality of their research [2]

Our fully updated and extended SAM App (Self-help App for the Mind) includes the ability for 
institutions to deliver tailored and personalised support to their selected user groups: research students, employees or other service users. With explicit opt-in user consent and secure data access, professional service providers can also get an overview of their users’ or service users’ progress, and valuable insights into their engagement, via our new SAM portal product.

How can the SAM App institutional package support PGRs?

The institutional package enables users of the free app to associate with an institution and identify themselves as PGR students. The institution is then able to take advantage of additional tailored content and cohort support tools.

The SAM app incorporates a range of self-help activities for PGRs and provides access to online spaces where PGRs can interact with one another to provide a peer support network. In addition, it provides tools to connect PGRs with academic and wellbeing support services for monitoring and to enable earlier intervention in cases of concern.

Self-help tools and techniques for PGR students

This module aims to support PGRs in managing their mental health by offering self-help options for personal and occupational concerns, including but not limited to: managing work-life balance; managing competing priorities; emotional regulation; time and workload management. The module provides information, guidance, activities and practices for PGRs. It does not offer clinical diagnoses or therapy programmes although it does provide relevant links for these and to contacts for more immediate help.

Social Cloud

The Social Cloud provides a closed support network for all SAM users. The app also provides an institution-specific registration that allows PGRs to connect with other PGRs in their institution. The social sharing can help to put PGRs’ concerns into perspective, act as a buffer to stress, reduce loneliness and improve general wellbeing


sam portal

The SAM Portal allows trusted institutional support staff to get an overview of the wellbeing of the cohort as a whole, and to view specific wellbeing details where users have given consent. This will be a small group of people with whom the user has made a prior arrangement to access information, advice, guidance and/or support. The Portal is a highly confidential feature of SAM where users can specify the extent and limits of communication between their Portal contacts.

[1] Levecque, K., Anseel, F., De Beuckelaer, A., Van der Heyden, J., & Gisle, L. (2017). Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students. Research Policy, 46(4), 868-879.

2] Ashton, P. & Pintor-Escobar, L., (2020). Five ways to tackle PhD research anxieties triggered by COVID-19 lockdowns. Nature Research journal. URL: [last access 10 Sep 2020]