Words by Politics and IR graduate Ross Carver-Carter .
Once the fanfare of graduation is over, it is easy to despair about what comes next; Competitive job markets, poor transitions into adult mental health services and a deluge of change in every facet of life create a perfect storm for graduate mental health, meaning all too often it is depression. There is a dearth of research on the subject, and much of the data on it is anecdotal, though no doubt it is extremely widespread: The City Mental Health alliance has reported that just under half of students surveyed noted a decline in mental health post graduation.
Graduating is a trying time for all, both those with pre-existing mental health conditions and those who have never suffered. The reasons for this are multifaceted: firstly, students who were in touch with mental health services provided on campus are left to seek support through the NHS. Oftentimes, this can leave students with mental health issues in a blind spot of care, opening the door to a mental health crisis. Better communication between HEI’s and NHS services preceding graduation could go someway to alleviating this, and advice given on how to seek support externally would also be hugely beneficial.
When it comes to jobs the landscape is no more forgiving; graduates are penalised for a lack of experience and rejected from roles relevant to their degree, but rightfully wonder how on earth they are supposed to get that experience if they can’t get through the front door.
And as for feedback, many are lucky to receive a rejection email for failed applications, let alone constructive criticism that can help going forward. This is in stark contrast to the setup graduates are used to. Naturally, this is detrimental to their self esteem and can leave them feeling completely adrift and rudderless.
Lastly, many graduates express feeling guilty about their depression; the anxiety and depression felt by graduates is real and widespread. It is also a natural response to a change in everything from structure to location, relationships and more. In according it the attention it deserves, and aiding young adults in the tumultuous transition from higher education to full time work, we do not belittle other causes of depression, but tackle toxic stigma which is a common enemy to all of us.
I hope this article does not become another op-ed that is read and forgotten; laudable efforts are underway to improve student mental health, but let’s make the transition into the “real world” smoother and less daunting. Universities should work to manage graduate expectations, and to tackle severe definitions graduates impose on themselves of what success is post university. And at the most simple level, we need to start a conversation about this issue, free of judgement.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised, please seek professional help or reach out for support. Below are a few article’s offering advice on dealing with graduate depression and managing your well-being.
Students of the University of Reading can also use UoR Careers services up to 18 months after graduating, and if Henley Business School you have four years of access post-graduation to their support service.