Stories on Depression: How Post-University Depression Crept In On Me.
The following story is an interview between an anonymous young graduate and a mental health counselor.
“For me, leaving university was a bittersweet experience”, an anonymous young person, who graduated last year, explains. “It very quickly went from being celebrated and recognized [for my achievements], to being thrown into a large pot of pressures. I traded the hostel peace, lectures, and a big circle of friends in for something far more daunting: adulthood and the unknown.”
But often before graduates can even get to ‘adulthood’, a place of limbo ensues. The last eighteen years of any students’ life have been about education – a structured routine of security, friendships, and learning. University is so often the goal for young people, which is why it can feel so daunting when it’s over. When the familiar timetable of university seminars, lectures and events come to an end, they’re faced with the overpowering question, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’
“It’s a massive anti-climax”, a counselor explained. “After years of structure, a feeling of ‘what now?’ descends. Consider this: you’ve been working all your life towards this single defining moment – ‘The Degree’ – but now the gates have clanged shut and you’re on your own, no wonder you feel lost.”
It’s easy to see how leaving the comfort and familiarity of a university can have a negative impact on your mental health. “I have no routine and I feel lonelier than ever”, the anonymous young person continues. “I’ve been waking up at midday and going to bed earlier, because the truth is, nobody wants to leave behind something that has been the best time of their life.
“I’m scared because for some people they can’t land their dream job, but for me, I don’t even know what that is”, the anonymous young person adds – and she’s not alone, either. The counselor said that “people may feel societal expectations and pressures to take on the role and responsibilities of being an adult, as for the first time you may have to support yourself financially, and so you might be worrying about debt.”
“I’ve dwindled in a downward spiral since graduating”, she continues. “I spent the last three years focusing on the end result, and now it’s here, I don’t know what to do with it. I’ve come out of my education without any work experience to show, and yet I worked my bloody socks off, so why should I settle for something that doesn’t make me happy?”
It’s not just the impending duties that are intimidating, either: the average student has a very low chance at obtaining a decent paying job when they leave university, which, paired with not knowing what job they want to do, can put a strain on their personal and physical health.
In a social media age where comparing yourself to anyone and everyone on your timeline is normal, it’s hard not to feel like you’re the one being left behind. Which is why counselors recommend graduates to stay away from ‘anti-social media’: “the platforms that showcase all your friends and those you follow with a career that you so desperately desire that gives them a flashy lifestyle. Those people may not be happy either, and even if they are, you’re not them.”
So, what can graduates do about it? Firstly, it’s imperative to try and pin-point the severity of a students’ graduate blues – is it mild, moderate or severe? Depression is first diagnosed using a checklist of questions about things like energy levels, mood, appetite and sleep.
From there, the counselor advised “checking in with yourself to see what’s really going on. Talking to others about it – whether it’s a counselor or the Samaritans because there are always people out there to support you in taking the next step. You’re not alone in this.”
The anonymous young person agrees, sharing that she’s helped to combat her post-university blues by “keeping in contact with friends from
How to Overcome Post University Depression
“Keep busy”, the counselor adds. “Being distracted by things you enjoy helps lift the mood and gets us out of bed! This finite transition will change if you are proactive and very few graduates find their dream job straight away.”
As many counselors say, landing your foot on your ideal career ladder might not happen straight away, so you have to be resilient, kind to yourself, and attempt different things – whether that’s alternative job routes, or even post-university gap years to give yourself more time to think.
“For me, I definitely don’t want to jump into a ‘career’ straight away”, a friend who graduated with her commented. “I need some time to think about what I really want to do with my life. I’ve moved back home for the time being to work in a supermarket and save some money to do a digital course or practical training and start my own business.
“I’m trying not to worry about it. In the grand scheme of things, I’m still very young. I’d rather give myself some more time to be 100 percent certain about my decision than jump into something and regret it later.”
The counselor concluded, “be as kind and as understanding to yourself about how you’re feeling as you would to a friend.” You wouldn’t put pressure on them to land their dream job immediately or rush into something straight away, so don’t do it to yourself, either.
Every Friday, we share and talk about depression among unemployed young people! Share your story with us via firstname.lastname@example.org