For college students, graduation is one of the most joyous occasions during their school life. But, why is there a type of depression called “Post-graduation depression”?
Leaving The Comforting College World
Post-graduation depression, as the name implies, is the feeling of sadness after graduation. This phenomenon commonly happens among newly graduated college students. Symptoms of this illness include an abnormally pessimistic outlook on life, a sense of hopelessness, and difficulty getting out of bed. Substance abuse is also common among sufferers.
“Symptoms of Substance Use Disorders include frequent use, prolonged use, cravings to use, and an inability to stop or cut back. The hallmark symptom of a Substance Use Disorder is continued use even after a person has experienced negative consequences because of their use (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).” –Hailey Shafir, LPCS, LCAS, CCS-I
But, what makes post-graduation depression different from regular depression? Why does this happen? Although the causes of this condition remain unknown, some experts claim that the state is correlated with the feeling of dis-empowerment.
In university, students feel empowered. This is because they have ready access to friends, organizations, and classmates. Moreover, success can be guaranteed by studying. If one needs guidance, they can always go to the guidance counselor or their professors. To give a good analogy, a student lives a ‘sheltered life.’
Through graduation, the student is suddenly pulled out from this comforting world. There is no slow transition for the student to adjust to the outside world. After graduation day, the student is back to square one: they have to make new friends and new companions. Success is now guaranteed in employment, but a job is hard to find.
Although college graduates have obtained independence by name, college graduates are honestly disempowered. After graduation, these newly graduates tend to go back to their parents and depend on their support for a short while. This sense of disempowerment and the hard expectations push these new graduates into a spiral of depression.
Understudied Mental Illness
“A mental illness cannot be willed away or brushed aside with a change in attitude. Ignoring the problem doesn’t give it the slip either.” –Deborah Serani, PsyD
Even though this condition is real and prevalent, it is an understudied phenomenon. Experts meet difficulty in studying the trends of this condition in college graduates. Psychology researcher John Galvin of Cardiff University explains why.
To him, it’s all about tracking. It is challenging to track and investigate college graduates because they have dispersed to various places. In comparison to college students, college students can be easily found in one place: the university.
Moreover, another difficulty that arises is the willingness of these graduates to be investigated. Newly graduates are afraid to talk about their experiences because of the shame that comes along with it. Graduation is supposed to be a joyous day, so why should newly graduates feel depressed?
How You Can Cope
Never fret, though! Post-graduation depression can be treated. If you are currently experiencing post-graduation depression, here are some tips that can help you get through it.
The first thing to do is to aim for a goal. According to Galvin, you shouldn’t feel pressured to find a ‘good, full-time job’ that new graduates are expected to. Instead, aim for getting a short-term job or go back to school for masters. Anything beats doing nothing while depression swallows you whole.
The second thing to ensure is to seek help.”You know the ones—these are the people you know you can always call, text, or email when you need to feel a connection.” David Klow, a licensed therapist said. Confide to your friends or family, and get help from a mental health professional. Depression is a mental illness, and this can only be treated with a psychiatrist or psychologist.
And the third thing to do is to remember that you are not alone. Post-graduation depression is common and prevalent among newly graduate students. If you think you’re the only one in your batch that feels this way, well, others think the same way as you do.