I have a friend who is having trouble in his math PhD career and is recently down with depression. He has decided to take a break from research and receive some medication. To help him recover faster and better, I am asking if anyone here with experience in helping depressed math PhDs could contribute his/her advice. Thanks in advance.

PS. If this question is more suitable on another stackexchange website, please feel free to move it there.

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    $\begingroup$ I believe Academia or Psychology might be more appropriate. If this person is not too depressed, they can search the web for others' experiences. I think you should repost the question elsewhere, not here. Gerhard "Out-of-scope Questions Can Be Depressing" Paseman, 2019.02.21. $\endgroup$ Feb 22 '19 at 5:18
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Gerhard that this question is a bit out of place here and may fit in better on academia stackexchange (see here for example academia.stackexchange.com/questions/28257/…), but I’d like to express sympathy for their situation and my well wishes; the life of any PhD student (but arguably pure math PhD’s more than most) can certainly be lonely at times, and I think we all understand the struggle to some extent. $\endgroup$
    – Alec Rhea
    Feb 22 '19 at 5:40
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    $\begingroup$ By only looking at the attention received by this question, I think it absolutely belongs here. $\endgroup$
    – EFinat-S
    Feb 22 '19 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @AlecRhea Thanks. I will definitely pass your wishes to him. $\endgroup$
    – Fan Zheng
    Feb 23 '19 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ @FanZheng, there is a clinic in New York that treats people with severe depression using ketamine. Here's the link: ctvnews.ca/health/… $\endgroup$
    – user25406
    Feb 28 '19 at 13:50

I do have something to share. I would ask the following:

1) Is he getting well with his advisor?

2) Does he have a daily routine (i.e wake up at 8AM everyday, preparing for teaching, going to gym at 11AM, reading papers from 1PM, attending weekly seminar at 3PM, etc). This can be crucial to get someone out of the state of depression.

3) Does he have potential plans after the PhD (with or without the degree)?

If the answers are No, I would suggest taking some concrete steps now (switch to a new advisor, form a daily life routine, consider a Plan $B$ or even Plan $Z$ in case academia does not work for him).

In case he still loves doing research, I would encourage him/her talk to some mathematican in industry but still actively doing research to have a better sense how to achieve this. If I recall correctly, Yakov Eliashberg, Vladmir Berkovich and Jeffrey Lagarias all worked at industry at some point, not to mention street names like Yitang Zhang.

  • $\begingroup$ I personally like point 2. It can be given as a general advice which has nothing to do with depression or anything... I will save this :) $\endgroup$ Feb 22 '19 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Fan Zheng: Just hope your friend is okay... $\endgroup$ Feb 22 '19 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Bombyxmori I will definitely pass your regards to him. $\endgroup$
    – Fan Zheng
    Feb 22 '19 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ @FanZheng: I contacted Simon and he said it is okay to put his website in the link. I was worried it might have put him in the spotlight. Now I am relieved. $\endgroup$ Feb 26 '19 at 5:26

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