Post-Undergraduate Depression


We've started our lives with and in education. It is a part of our routine from pre-school to high school, and for a lot of us, we continue to college. From Monday through Friday we are told to sit in classrooms for eight hours for every week of the year, excluding summer holiday, learning and studying different topics. As previously mentioned for those of us who march on to post-secondary education we have more flexibility and autonomy in creating and managing our school schedules, but education is still very much the primary responsibility we have.

We can relate to staying up late studying, worrying about or looking forward to socializing and doing the math in whether or not we can afford to fail a test we knew about since the beginning of the course. It's this seemingly never-ending cycle we live in day-to-day until finally, the day we graduate.

For most of us, graduation marks a milestone we've achieved, it's an exciting time in someone's life, a moment that does deserve celebration but for others, it can also mark a time of high anxiety and uncertainty. Graduation can actually be a negative part of our educational career. Experiencing depression is an issue that a lot of college graduates seem to suffer from after graduation and isn't a reality that is often discussed.

You have your fancy diploma that's indebted you and no certainty of the future, no real picture of what is that you're going to be doing with the rest of your life. The next stage is entirely left up to you; you are now wholly autonomous and on your own. For the most part, colleges and universities don't and aren't accountable for making sure they've produced well-rounded worldly people. They've completed their single job, to credential you, nothing more nothing less. Some graduates aren't even privy to what their experiencing. The symptoms are not always apparent as mental illnesses, in general, are still stigmatized and taboo.  Symptoms can appear as feeling unhappy, dissatisfied, lethargic, having low motivation, feeling tired, restless, agitated, loss of interest in life or things that were once enjoyable, difficulty with sleeping and eating, straying away from socializing, losing a sense of who you are and confidence. These symptoms especially when coupled with each other may be depression in disguise. 


Gradation, as happy as the moment is supposed to be, is also a marker of the safety net is removed. A friend of mine gave a perfect analogy for the end transition period between post-secondary and the real world, it is the moment when the momma bird kicks out her babies regardless of whether or not the babies are ready to fly. Not to be morbid, but a lot of those baby birds end up on the dead on the ground. The structure, predictability college provided is now gone. Now all graduates are left with are high expectations and no guide in how to maneuver in adulthood, with no road map and life happening as soon as that cap comes back down to earth. 

We all go to college for relatively the same reasons; it's a part of the 'American Dream (myth)' that once you secure higher education your chances of having a good quality of life b securing a job. It's a complete gamble in the tens of thousands, and millions of students are willing to do it because unless we're born into affluence, what other options do we have? Graduates hope and dream to get hired right after graduation, and even better, securing a job before graduation. Some even dream of having a job worth bragging about at a fortune-500 company. But life comes fast; it is becoming increasingly common to hear about difficulty finding jobs after graduating college and grads moving back home to get on their feet. Bills become real, and you're looked at and feel like a failure. Even if grads find jobs, the first job typically isn't the best. You become miserable, you have no pull, at the bottom of the totem pole and just praying to make it past the probationary period all while your bills steal every penny from your check. 

Graduation makes it more real of the reality that as a grad you're tasked with finding a job, handling financial responsibilities, loans and realizing that you have less power in the world. These realities aren't fun and as glamorous as graduation is made out to be. With that, post-undergrad depression is real and should be respected, and coping measures should be taught while in school to try to prepare students for their transition.

Universities are kind of a set-up for the okey-doke, in school; you're taught and encouraged to be independent,  free-thinking, creative which elicits a sense of power. But when entering the workforce, graduates quickly come to realize that companies aren't hiring them for their creativity and independence, they're employed for their labor and have rigid routines with little to no room for autonomy and creativity and free-thought. Even the firms that look for creative, free-thinking independent worker, they're often asked too much and put under pressure to produce that results in quick burnout and worse outcomes for employees. 

So even those who've landed jobs and may not have to worry about their livelihood, there's still the feelings of self-doubt, lack of self-governance and general unhappiness that can arise. To those who feel they are or know for a fact they're in a state of depression from post-undergraduate graduation, it may look as if it this is a permanent rut, but hopefully, this is just the adjustment phase, others have gone through the same flux period and lead happy and healthy lives. 

Utilize your friends; they may also be experiencing the same feelings, talk to mentors and invest in your mental and spiritual well-being however that may look for you. Try to use this period to get a better grasp of who you are and what your triggers are. In fact, maybe your friends, social media, specific social environments can be triggers instead of spaces that they're usually thought to be. Most importantly, ask for help, seek proper care for professionals. Talking to a psychologist, a guidance counselor and even a trusted community member versed in psychology such as a priest or pastor can help in this transitional period. For those about to and those who have recently graduated,  I sincerely wish you a strong sense of direction.