One in four students suffer from mental health problems from stress and anxiety, making this a challenging time¹. Luckily, most universities have dedicated student support services that can help people cope with these issues. However, the statistics on how mental health conditions develop after graduation is murkier. This joyful milestone can be followed by some unique difficulties.
What are some of the problems?
People tend to fall into two categories when they graduate. Some go into jobs or internships that they have lined up after their course finishes. This requires a big change in routine. No more late lie-ins, midweek drinking or all-nighters. If you go into a job different to your degree subject, you may also face intellectual frustration when you move into business rather than academic thinking. Having money and a fulfilling job can be wonderful. Not everyone experiences their first steps into the world of work that positively, though, so this can be a difficult time.
An alternative situation that many graduates find is that they don’t have a job to start after they finish. There is nothing wrong with this and it doesn’t hurt to travel, try new experiences and plan the future properly. It can make many people feel envious of the progress made by their peers though, especially when their photos are splashed over social media. The lack of money this can involve can also be frustrating. University was supposed to be the time for being thrifty. It can be heart-breaking to face bills without a student loan to soften the blow and shore up your social life.
Whatever your path after university, it often involves moving away from friends, many of whom may return to far parts of the country or even abroad. This makes it tricky to meet up like you did when they were just a short walk away. Having to go back and live with parents can make this worse as you may have to surrender some of your independence and freedom.
What are some solutions?
This is a major life transition so never feel guilty about feeling low after graduation. As with any mental health condition, contact a medical professional to get further advice and treatment. There are some strategies that can help you feel better about leaving university.
If you don’t have a job yet, plan for your future. Soak up the knowledge you learnt from the Careers & Employability Service to help you find a job or internship. If you can’t find something paid, then a volunteering opportunity might boost your CV and keep you busy and motivated. Keep up your interest in the course you studied and satisfy your intellectual side. Importantly, avoid comparing yourself to your friends and resist the pressure and expectations of family. Remember your accomplishments and how you changed as a person over the course of university.
If you have a job, this is not the end of your life or the last time you will have fun. Both will change in unexpected ways but you will keep the best of your old friends and make great new ones. Keep discovering new hobbies to keep yourself on your toes. You should also not be scared to take a leap of faith as the career choices you make now are not fixed and will probably change several times over your life.
Leaving university is a daunting but thrilling experience. If you suffer from mental health problems in its aftermath, know that you are not alone and there are many people you can reach out to for support. Contact CUC Student Support, your GP or a charity like Student Minds for further information.
If you are interested in learning more about how to address issues of mental health and wellbeing, consider our Counselling courses.