Some people have labelled it the ‘graduation blues’ but lets call what it is. The ‘blues’ implies general sadness, maybe you’ll miss seeing your mates, leaving education is a sad step for some, maybe you’ll miss pot noodle dinners… who knows. But it has been claimed that a shocking 49% of graduates feel a decline in their mental state after leaving university. Others have found it affects one in four students but still, that’s a hefty amount of people and I, for one, was never prepared for such a dire end result.
Now, I’m not saying I have witnessed post university depression first hand, and quite frankly, I find depression as a notion itself something very difficult to define. Nor do I intend to frighten anyone, because I know, for some, university itself is enough deterioration on mental health. But what I do want to do is highlight something that, in my opinion, universities don’t, but should, prepare you for.
We’re all already painfully aware of the fact that after graduating you’re faced with the pressure to immediately find a job, but you’re also faced with other complications. ‘Should I have something higher paid?’, ‘When do I move out?’, ‘I can write an essay but how do I navigate through life?’ Ohh yeah, you’re also neck deep in debt. No doubt, the morale dip is a significant one, given that you’ve gone from getting good grades and constant mentor approval to becoming an unemployed fish out of water.
As for me, I haven’t graduated yet, though I (naively) thought it’d be useful to opt for a sandwich course and take my third year out to do a placement before my dreaded dissertation. However, I’ve found that instead of preparing me for hitting the graduation ground running, this work year out has actually given me a taste of the graduation grief. In these first few months of placement year I have seen possibly the weirdest sets of jobs and experiences, none of which have positively prepared me for post-grad life. It has ultimately had me questioning whether or not this is a common experience or not and led me to do research (to which I found the grad blues).
When reading up about other peoples experiences with this i realised there’s two types of university students. The ones who go simply for the sake of obtaining a degree (usually English grads, fair enough) and the ones who go with a particular career path in mind. But both of the two groups face fairly similar outcomes. The first lot finish their uni years with a degree that’s fairly easy to apply to a range of job areas but they’ve been given no direction and ultimately recruiters are looking for those with a niche. The second group, however, have that direction, and probably very clear long term goals, but no idea what initial steps to take in order to reach them. Ultimately leaving all candidates open to the same outcome.
Whilst actually at university, there are plenty of well-being officers to help you through your studies and social/mental hurdles, but once that’s all over and you’re thrown into the mad world, there seems to be no direct mentors in sight. Maybe warning students of the ‘grad blues’ wouldn’t be a good selling point for universities. Sally Ingram, Durham University’s director of counselling services says that despite universities being aware of these issues, it IS a post uni issue and something that affects people once they’ve left the care of their uni mentors.
A lot can run through your mind when taking that first step on the career ladder. You may be given roles that offer no room for growth, you may get faced with endless glass ceilings, you may get interviewed by people with less subject knowledge yet not be given the job, or you might just not find anything. But where do you go from there?
In these situations, people tend to suffer alone in fear of embarrassment, appearing a failure, or simply not wanting to put others out. Every account I’ve read online has started with people admitting they didn’t have the courage to tell their friends and family what they were going through. The first thing you need to do is accept that this happens to around half of us, on average. Talking to your peers will help you realise this.
We all live very similar lives, we all go through the same struggles so why can’t we talk to each other about it. It’s good to be strong and its good to be there for your friends but the first step is opening up to these vulnerabilities with each other. You’re more likely to speak to someone who is transparent with you. So why not make that first step and be transparent with them.
Talking to family is sometimes more daunting for some. Personally I find it easier but for many it is scary and that’s understandable. But more often than not, your parents will have gone through and will understand the struggles that you’re facing. And if not your parents, aunts, uncles, even grandparents. Just because mental health wasn’t talked about in their day doesn’t mean they don’t understand feelings. They would have gone through a hell of a lot and chances are they know a whole lot about coping with bad feelings.
Lastly, there are services out there, not just with the NHS but within your university. Seek advice now rather than later, use the resources you have whilst you still have them. Your mentors were all students once and if they’re offering their time to help you, take it. There’s no harm in picking their brains. As for dealing with mental health I’ll leave some links below should you ever need it, and I hope you don’t.
Is this something you’ve worried about in the past or do you think post-uni depression is all a load of rubbish? Have you, in fact, gone through something like this or have tips and ideas on how people could deal with it? Let me know in the comments!
Depression can trigger many other issues and the NHS have many helplines for these, which can be found on their website.
Find mental health support near you, here.
For less sever cases, have a look at the post university health services.
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