Graduating from college can bring with it a flurry of emotions for students — happiness they’ve made it this far, anxiety about what the future may hold and sadness about leaving such a crucial chapter of their life behind to enter a new one.
While all of these feelings are common, many students also experience a sense of depression after they graduate — a phenomenon known as post-graduation depression, according to Southern New Hampshire University. Some factors contributing to this issue involve difficulty acclimating to life as a non-student, changes in students’ daily routines as they transition to adult life and the complexity in connecting with peers off campus compared to during school.
Common symptoms of depression
It’s first important to understand exactly what the symptoms of depression are. Although mood disorders like depression can only be diagnosed by licensed professionals — like psychologists, psychiatrists and other general practitioners — knowing what symptoms to look for can help one determine whether they should seek professional help.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are some common symptoms of depression:
Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
Persistent tiredness and lack of energy
Differences in appetite, either greatly reduced or increased
Differences in sleep patterns — sleeping too much or too little
Anxiety or agitation
In extreme cases, recurrent or frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Preparing for a smooth transition after school
While some people are simply more predisposed to depression than others, and not all solutions or treatments work for everybody, there are actions people can take while still in college to help alleviate any feelings of shock and negative mental health after graduation.
There are lots of converging factors to take into consideration as one looks toward graduation. According to Southern New Hampshire University, seniors should plan for housing accommodations, create a support system for after graduation and begin considering postgraduate options, like jobs or postgraduate degrees, as soon as possible.
Although some amount of stress is inevitable, it’s important students not deal with it in a damaging way. According to a study from the medical journal Addictive Behavior Reports, many young adults cope with feelings of depression with excessive alcohol use. While most emerging adults mature out of heavy drinking, some postgraduates may continue to drink heavily as a way of managing the stresses of transitioning to post-college life.
Therefore, it’s important graduates find a consistent, healthy outlet and coping mechanisms. For example, a student may choose to meditate regularly or practice breathing exercises. According to WebMD, other helpful forms of stress management are getting adequate sleep, keeping a healthy diet and exercising.
Finally, there are many resources available when and one decides they need help. Sites like Psychology Today and GoodTherapy can help locate therapists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals in nearby areas. If someone is experiencing a mental crisis and severe distress, there are several crisis hotlines they can contact to talk to a trained crisis worker, including the national Suicide & Prevention Lifeline at 988.
The IU Counseling and Psychological Services also offers several mental health services to students, including individual counseling and psychiatric care. Students who are registered for more than three credit hours receive three free CAPS visits per semester, after which the cost for each individual session is $25.