Post Graduate Depression, What Is It?

This silent problem is taking over the lives of recent graduates, and while conversations around mental health in general has been getting louder, this is an area that is still relatively quiet.

Finishing college is supposed to be a special moment when your life can finally start. Watch out world, here you come, all bright eyed and bushy tailed – but sadly, this isn’t always the case. After years of being in full-time education, it is now time to start fiercely competing with others in the same situation as you for that much talked about dream job. You know the job right? That special grand scheme based in some buzzing city far away, which pays more money than your parents make, promises fast progression, a fancy title and puts your 40,000 dollar degree to good use? Sadly, this isn’t always guaranteed.

 

I remember graduating, and feeling free, happy and as if I had my whole life ahead of me. Then reality hit, after the party, the celebration, the congratulations life hit and hit hard! I was now faced with the challenges and the reality that was released into a world where I had student debt, that had to be paid back within the next 6 months, into a low job market, where I was competing again 50,000 other recent graduates. If that’s not enough stress I was now being quizzed by family members as to what my next steps are, parents were pushing me out of the house, I could not find a job, and ended up in some crummy apartment, part time job, not in my field and Sallie Mae had been contacting me since the day I’ve graduated. I was completely and overwhelmingly depressed!

Leaving university is a shock to the system. It’s no longer about making sure you’ve done the extra reading and taking part in seminars, but about being expected to land a job, have a plan and start saving for things like a mortgage. Most people graduate college at 23 -25 years old, we start school at 4 and 5 years old meaning we have been condition for 20 plus years in a structured systematic education system that promised us; a fancy car, great degree,  to land us an awesome job and a big house with a white picket fence,  to only leave us with depression, anxiety about life and stress.

One graduate, who struggled with mental health issues after graduating with a degree in community nutrition in 2015, said “I suffered massively with anxiety and felt at a loss thinking about that was next. I felt unhappy and had no interest in life, this massively impacted my relationships with friends and family”.

Post Commencement Stress Disorder (PCSD)

Dr. Dr. Bernard Luskin, LMFT in Psychology Today coined post graduate depression as; “Post Commencement Stress Disorder (PCSD) is a condition emerging from a diagnosis of symptoms affecting new graduates facing the task of choosing, changing or pursuing a career beyond the protective bubble provided by the traditional college campus and now amplified by the variety of different approaches to graduation and commencement that are evolving.  Anxiety and stress result from experiencing a mixture of excitement and fear of the unknown. Completing a degree brings both opportunity and insecurity to many new graduates as they pursue a vision and career. The diverse types and venues of commencements have been growing and changing and the frequency and nature of PCSD has not been sufficiently studied and incidents and occurrences’ have been under reported”.

Symptoms of PCSD

  • Feeling you are not in control of your life
  • Feeling a lack of support after commencement
  • Feelings of failure if the new graduate is unable to find work in their area of specialty in a reasonable length of time
  • Sleeplessness and irritability
  • Avoidance of normal, everyday activities

Please also be aware that these symptoms might not present themselves until some weeks or months after the commencement. In short, graduation can be stressful even though it is intended to be a joyous time for graduates. For those insulated by traditional programs, today’s younger graduates are being challenged to put their degrees to work in a world experiencing significant unemployment and significant social change. For the older adults with complicated lives, including families and other obligations, their generation is now experiencing a host of new challenges. Today, the job market is so unstable that it is a primary source of anxiety for those currently employed in addition to those entering the job market.

To battle this hardship Dr, Luskins suggest 3 things;

  1. Make a plan
  2. Keep priorities in prospective
  3. Confront the future

 

At the end of the day, you will get through it. It’s not something that last forever, unfortunately it’s not something we all want to go through, but it is something we all experience. Try to stay positive, keep working hard and look at the good in every situation. You’re going to be looking back at this one day.