Post-graduation depression, a reality for many

Julieta Rodrigo // Staff Writer

Without a doubt, graduation is an exciting time for college students. Seniors look forward to commencement ceremonies, starting their careers, traveling and achieving other life milestones.

However, once the whirlwind of joy from graduation celebration fizzles, the reality of post-graduation depression is a serious concern for recent graduates.

Depression can be exacerbated by a number of different reasons. For starters, recent graduates often have high expectations that may be difficult to achieve immediately after graduation. The job they are hired for—if they are even hired at all within the first few months—may pay less than they expected, or may be in a company they didn’t wish to work in.

For many, the relative freedom of living alone in a dorm or in an apartment might suddenly collapse as financial realities force students to move back in with their parents.

The loss of a daily routine makes the transition particularly difficult for some. College provides structure and predictability, and the sudden interruption of that lifestyle can be challenging.  

Vicki Hays, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Michigan, believes that a loss of a routine is a significant contributor to postgraduate depression. She said: “For most [students], they have not been without the structure of organized education ever in their lives.”

Symptoms of post-graduate depression are not always clear to the person experiencing them or to the people surrounding them. According to Empowher, some graduates aren’t even aware they are experiencing depression. Common symptoms include “feeling tired, restless or agitated, losing interest in life, finding it hard to make decisions, and avoiding people.”

Justin Peterson, a spring 2016 graduate, told Student Media that he experienced this depression shortly after his commencement ceremony.

“Once I left the dorms, I lost contact with all my friends and I had nothing to do,” he said. “Every day was a struggle to wake up and be productive, because everyone else around me was achieving their goals and I just kept getting rejection letters from jobs.”

Peterson combatted his depression with getting involved in charity work at a local homeless shelter, where he made friends with other people his age and created meaningful relationships with individuals suffering from homelessness.

“The experience there helped me branch out and try new things,” he said. “And I was even offered a professional job from one of the connections I made there.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of post-graduate depression, seek help from a professional.

In addition, Mental Health Daily recommends focusing on the present and being social within your community. Activities like volunteering in a local organization and having a positive outlook can help recent graduates remain optimistic and motivated.

There is so much to look forward to, from finding a rewarding job that makes you happy to becoming more independent and spending time with your loved ones. You will find a fulfilling career and you will adapt to your new environments. You just have to give yourself time to adjust to the changes in your life following graduation.

Do not compare yourself to others, even if you see your friends getting married and landing their dream jobs before you do. Each student has a unique story to tell; they merely play out in different timelines.

Have a safe summer break, Panthers, and remember that you never have to suffer from depression alone.

I extend my deepest congratulations to the spring 2017 class graduates and wish you all the best of luck in your endeavors.

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