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“I realised that, if I am dead, I cannot finish my PhD!”: A narrative ethnography of psychological capital in academia

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journal contribution
posted on 05.08.2022, 02:08 authored by Lynette PretoriusLynette Pretorius

 Despite the increasing quantitative evidence that there is a mental health crisis in doctoral education, there is a lack of qualitative research that highlights the voices of individuals experiencing mental illness. This study highlights the experiences of a second-year PhD student as she discovers that she is mentally unwell. The participant’s experiences are interwoven with the reflections and experiences of the researcher, a doctoral educator. Through the use of narrative ethnography, this study highlights the need for doctoral educators to build an environment that fosters students’ psychological capital by helping them develop efficacy, optimism, hope, and resilience. In this way, doctoral education environments can become more welcoming, compassionate, inclusive, and growth-focused. This study also demonstrates the benefits for educators of employing narrative ethnography as a methodology to improve their own pedagogical practices by better understanding their own lived experiences as well as those of their students.