Graduate Depression Is a Thing And We All Need To Start Talking About It
I remember being absolutely terrified in my final year of university.
It wasn’t because of the mountain of work that needed completing in order to finish my dissertation, although that was a significant part of it. No, it was knowing that graduation day was looming ever closer that kept me awake at night.
Towards the end, my lectures would focus on the number of graduates who instantly came out of university with a job in their field. The importance of this was pushed more and more the closer we came to the end of the year. I remember it filling me with an overwhelming dread. The pressure to have my future planned, get experience, find a job and succeed was enormous.
Looking back on it now, it’s no wonder why so many graduates suffer with something referred to as the ‘Graduate Blues’ or ‘Graduate Depression’.
1 in 4 students suffer from mental health issues during their time at university.
I was one of these students, struggling with depression and anxiety that I had been living with untreated since I was a teenager.
Thankfully, mental welfare for students has become a top priority due to its growth in publicity. Unfortunately though, there is no firm statistic on the extent of graduate depression and the issue is still not discussed nearly as much as it should be.
It wasn’t until I’d graduated and relapsed that I found out a thing called ‘Graduate Depression’ actually existed and that it wasn’t something I alone was dealing with.
It is a serious issue that affects so many young people ending their years in education and it simply isn’t talked about enough. It’s brushed under the rug, trivialised as a simple case of fear of change, and blamed on the belief that graduates expect too much from the world. If only it were that simple.
So, to help to raise some awareness, here are some of the things that contribute to Graduate Depression that could help you identify any similar feelings:
1. Feeling lost.
So many of us graduates feel this way after our years in education end. Some seem to know exactly what they want to do with their lives after university, and this can be extremely worrying for those of us who haven’t a clue; it only leads us to believe that we should have a plan for ours, too. Having to suddenly plan the rest of your life when you’ve had it all figured out for the past 3-4 years is daunting, and feeling lost and out of control can have serious, negative effects on your mental health.
2. Moving back in with the family.
When I’ve complained about this to my older friends, they never seem to understand the negative side to this transition. They believe that moving back in with family after years apart should be a glorious feeling – but it isn’t that simple. Yes, there’s the initial joy of being reunited with your parents and siblings; you love them and of course you’ve missed them. But after years of independence and living on your own agenda, moving back in with your family suddenly strips that away from you and that can be really hard to swallow. Conflict often begins to develop between you and your parents as you try to exercise the freedom you once had, and it can begin to feel extremely frustrating not being able to escape.
3. Feeling as though the graduate job is unreachable.
Experience. Experience. Experience. University shoves the importance of this down our throats, but one way or another we never seem to have enough. Work experience and internships are extremely competitive and it can feel incredibly frustrating when you can’t land any that you are looking for. You begin to wonder if you’ll ever gain the experience you need, let alone get an interview for the job you want so badly.
4. Fed up of being stuck in a job ‘just to get by.’
Many people don’t instantly go into a job they love after university, a lot of us take up ‘just to get by’ jobs to make some cash while we look for jobs we are actually aiming for. Yes, it is soul destroying when someone asks, ‘What do you do?’ and you have to shrug and tell them you’re working in a bar. You’re then left wondering if they expected you to say something more impressive, because they know you’re a graduate. It becomes even more crushing when someone asks you week after week about your career progress, when you have none to report. Understandably, all of this can really drag your mood down: you feel like an underachiever despite the irony that you actually have a degree, speaking of which…
5. Feelings of inadequacy.
Applying to job after job without hearing a peep is extremely discouraging. It can begin to feel as though you aren’t good enough, especially when you see your other graduate friends begin to land their dream jobs. No one likes to feel as though they’re being left behind, that they’re unlucky or just plain hopeless. With that, it is really hard to fight off the thoughts of inadequacy that seem to get louder and louder the longer you’re left without any news from the job hunt.
6. Worrying about student debt.
It’s rare to come across a graduate that isn’t worried about their financial situation, especially when the majority of internships and work experience is unpaid. The debt from our studies hangs over our heads like a lead weight that seems to grow in size the longer we are left jobless. It adds to the pressure to find ourselves that one job to kick-start our careers, which consequently does zero favours for our mental health.
One thing you simply must keep in mind is that you are not alone.
All these feelings are monumentally draining when they all pile up on top of you, and the sad reality is that so many graduates come out of university feeling this way. While this painful and frustrating process is all a natural part of finding your way to a certain extent, the depression you feel isn’t just you feeling sorry for yourself.
It’s time we stop treating graduates who leave university disenchanted, disengaged and depressed with such disdain, and start figuring out how we can stop this from happening.
In the meantime, if you recognise the above feelings, talk about them to your friends, family, even your university. There are people who will listen and there are people who will be feeling the exact same way as you.