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Can't cope with phD - what's next?

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    Hi,

    I'd like to ask advice about what I can do to help my girlfriend's brother. He's got depression and is in the process of gettting a year off from uni where he was one year into completing a pHD in Physchology. I think the type of depression he has is anxiety and something else. He's gay but hasn't had a boyfriend in ages, hes quite overweight and I imagine this gets him down as well. Their mum killed herself because of the same type of depression when he was 10 and they dont talk to their dad. They dont really have any other family who would be in a position to support him except one auntie but he doesnt want to tell her about quitting uni and everything.

    Basically I'm wondering what he should do next?

    The thing is he lives near London and we live in Scotland so we're not exactly able to go see him that often, should we get him to come up to stay with us or not?

    I know it seems an obvious answer but usually when he's up we can only cheer him up for a bit but he only seems to be happy if he's got money and theres plenty food in the house, which there hardly ever is. We only just have enough money for bills and that each month (Im a student and work part-time and my girlfriend pays most of the bills) so it's hard when he comes to stay to have extra money for food when hes in the house all day (we're usually only in at night) and the extra electricity and everything. He's in the process of signing on where he lives just now so he'll get money from that but it will no where near be the amount he was used to making with his phD (£3000 a quarter) but he was saying he wants to get a part-time job at Tesco or something...
    Is this a good idea? Hes never had a job before his phD. Would he even be able to get one of those type of jobs having quit uni and with his condition?
    He has been to see his GP and he's on medication but he says he's sick of being in education (having previously done a BSc i think and a Masters) and just wants a break. My girlfriend thinks he won't go back to doing his phD if he gets a part time job.
    What advice can we give him?
    I know the important thing is for him to get better but I dont know if he would sitting in our flat on his own all day? So is a part time job the answer? Or should he try to get a job up here doing something with Physchology? Would that even be possible?
    Are there any options open that I'm missing?

    The other thing is for him to stay where he lives just now... would that be better? He'd be on his own in the same situation basically but he wouldnt have to put up with sitting in with me and my girlfriend at night and he would have to rely on himself to make money and stuff which could be good for him as he has previously just relied on student loans and bursaries.

    If he did come to live with us, what else could I do to help him? Im healthy eating just now and go to the gym and exercise classes a lot so should I try to get him involved in that too? Would that help? The last time he came to stay, i think he felt quite like a third wheel with me and my girlfriend, is there anything we can do to stop that? Its hard because all we really do at night is sit together cause we're always tired from uni and work. We always included him when we went on trips out last summer and that but what else can we do?

    Sorry for the rambling also I just wanted to get all the information out there.

    I'm sorry if any of the above has made me seem ignorant and selfish, I just want to know what people think we should do for the best cause I really have no idea?? and I do really want to help him.

    If anyone can help, I would really appreciate it.
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    Hmm this is a really tricky situation...I dunno how much useful advice I can give, but here is my 2 cents.
    You could definitely give him the option of going to live with you- that will make him realise that he's not on his own with this. I really like your idea of getting him involved with your exercise/healthy eating, it would motivate him to get fit and probably make him feel like less of a third wheel...
    Does he have friends/any kind of support in london? because it might be really hard for him to be sitting in your flat all day, and he might feel really isolated. How possible would it be for you and your girlfriend to go and visit him on a semi-regular basis? But that said, maybe he feels like he needs to get away from london? Best thing is probably to ask him what he thinks if you haven't already.
    If he could get a part time job in psychology that would be better than a supermarket job, I dunno how easy that is though... Maybe he could do some tutoring? That is part time, fairly lucrative and skilled...
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    (Original post by SuzeBlues)
    Hi,

    I'd like to ask advice about what I can do to help my girlfriend's brother. He's got depression and is in the process of gettting a year off from uni where he was one year into completing a pHD in Physchology. I think the type of depression he has is anxiety and something else. He's gay but hasn't had a boyfriend in ages, hes quite overweight and I imagine this gets him down as well. Their mum killed herself because of the same type of depression when he was 10 and they dont talk to their dad. They dont really have any other family who would be in a position to support him except one auntie but he doesnt want to tell her about quitting uni and everything.

    Basically I'm wondering what he should do next?

    The thing is he lives near London and we live in Scotland so we're not exactly able to go see him that often, should we get him to come up to stay with us or not?

    I know it seems an obvious answer but usually when he's up we can only cheer him up for a bit but he only seems to be happy if he's got money and theres plenty food in the house, which there hardly ever is. We only just have enough money for bills and that each month (Im a student and work part-time and my girlfriend pays most of the bills) so it's hard when he comes to stay to have extra money for food when hes in the house all day (we're usually only in at night) and the extra electricity and everything. He's in the process of signing on where he lives just now so he'll get money from that but it will no where near be the amount he was used to making with his phD (£3000 a quarter) but he was saying he wants to get a part-time job at Tesco or something...
    Is this a good idea? Hes never had a job before his phD. Would he even be able to get one of those type of jobs having quit uni and with his condition?
    He has been to see his GP and he's on medication but he says he's sick of being in education (having previously done a BSc i think and a Masters) and just wants a break. My girlfriend thinks he won't go back to doing his phD if he gets a part time job.
    What advice can we give him?
    I know the important thing is for him to get better but I dont know if he would sitting in our flat on his own all day? So is a part time job the answer? Or should he try to get a job up here doing something with Physchology? Would that even be possible?
    Are there any options open that I'm missing?

    The other thing is for him to stay where he lives just now... would that be better? He'd be on his own in the same situation basically but he wouldnt have to put up with sitting in with me and my girlfriend at night and he would have to rely on himself to make money and stuff which could be good for him as he has previously just relied on student loans and bursaries.

    If he did come to live with us, what else could I do to help him? Im healthy eating just now and go to the gym and exercise classes a lot so should I try to get him involved in that too? Would that help? The last time he came to stay, i think he felt quite like a third wheel with me and my girlfriend, is there anything we can do to stop that? Its hard because all we really do at night is sit together cause we're always tired from uni and work. We always included him when we went on trips out last summer and that but what else can we do?

    Sorry for the rambling also I just wanted to get all the information out there.

    I'm sorry if any of the above has made me seem ignorant and selfish, I just want to know what people think we should do for the best cause I really have no idea?? and I do really want to help him.

    If anyone can help, I would really appreciate it.
    Have you asked him what he wants to do? you could come up with all the solutions in the world but if it's not something he's interested in doing, then it will be pointless. It's like the old adage 'you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.'

    As for getting a job being a good idea, it depends really. If he is only working part time, he may be better off on benefits as he will get the full Housing and Council Tax Benefit. If he's been diagnosed with depression and is on medication, there is a good chance he will be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance which is a benefit paid to those who are unable to work due to ill health or disability.

    It's likely he would have to attend a medical to claim the benefit. If he was not eligible for Employment and Support Allowance, he would claim Job Seekers Allowance and would be required to look for work as a condition of claiming.

    I think you can work part time whilst claiming JSA as long as it is under 16 hours per week but any employment income earned will be deducted from the benefit.

    I've worked with a lot of unemployed people in the past and a lot of them develop depression as a result of being unemployed. In some respects I think it would be better for his self-esteem if he worked and it would avoid social isolation.

    He has to want to do it himself though and it may be difficult for him to get a job if he has always been engaged in academic study and has little or no work experience. Voluntary work is a good way of getting transferable skills and experience for work.

    I think the best you can do for him is just let him know that you are there if he needs you. Keep in touch with him on a regular basis.
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    I just finished a PhD through a fog of depression and anxiety. If your girlfriend's brother already has these conditions, and a whole lot of other stressful and distressing circumstances as you describe, he's probably doing the right thing in taking a break from it. It can be a very unhealthy, psychologically damaging business if you're in the wrong state of mind / not feeling very strong.

    As for what he should do in the meantime, work may not necessarily help his through his depression - he may find his depression hindering him from working normally, and if the type of work itself is unstimulating, it could make it worse (I speak from experience). Is there anything he specifically enjoys / used to enjoy before he got depressed? If so, I'd just voluntary work in that area. It's what I'm looking into now - during the last year of my PhD, the only thing that made me happy was when I could occasionally get out into the countryside, so now I'm looking to do some volunteer work in wildlife / conservation stuff. If he had those interests, he might find he'd lose weight at the same time as his spirits are lifted. If not, what about voluntary work in a psychology-related field, just as mental health or mental disability (I was looking into helping out with horse riding for the disabled myself). That way, he won't feel like he's falling behind or wasting time - he'd be doing things that would actively contribute toward his CV, while at the same time not dwelling on his own mood and problems so much, but helping others with theirs.

    That's the best I can think of for now. That and as the above poster says, let him know you're thereto support him.
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    Thanks, these are some great replies. I'll suggest all those to him if he comes up.

    He's supposed to be coming up today but we've not heard from him at all. He's not answering his phone or anything :/
    We've given him £80 for petrol to drive up here to live with us but we don't know whats happening.

    On the phone last week, he told us he is in tons of debt. He's not paid two months of rent (he's getting evicted), his credit card bill and uni is asking for his last bursary installment back. My girlfriend had tea with her auntie last night and she thinks he should just declare himself homeless but we obviously don't want that? She also said that she thinks he has to get himself out of it as he cant have people helping him all the time..

    He also said that he doesn't really know what he wants to do while he's off from uni or even if he actually does want to go back to finish his phD.

    So confused.

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Updated: March 19, 2012
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