THE SUMMER AFTER: ARE YOU COPING WITH POST-GRAD DEPRESSION By: Amita Behavioral Medicine Submitted by Kathy O’Neill RN, Parish Nurse
For many college students, the summer months mean taking a much-needed rest from the breakneck pace of finals and homework. Time away from school means time to relax on the beach, catch up with old friends or even pick up extra hours at work to save for the next school year. But for those who have just graduated college, the feeling can be quite different.
College graduation is celebrated with grandiose ceremonies and parties, but after the caps flutter to the ground and the diplomas are hung on the wall, many graduates are left with feelings of loss and directionlessness. They might even feel like they should be happier than ever now that this tremendous achievement is behind them. But the fact is that trading the structure and social life of college for the more amorphous and uncertain realities of post-collegiate life can feel like a real loss. It is easy to become depressed in such circumstances.
End of an Era: The end of the college experience signals a major change for almost every young person who goes through it. For most, it is the end of almost two decades of formal education starting when they were very young children. Kids, teens and young adults might all complain about homework, exams and having to get up for school every morning, but the truth is that school provides both structure and a sense of accomplishment — and it’s disorienting when those are suddenly taken away.
Besides providing an organizing backdrop for their lives, school offers students many fun and enriching experiences that are difficult to replicate outside of the educational system. Whether your hobbies are music, performing arts or team sports, you will probably have a hard time finding an orchestra, theater group or football team to play with after graduation. If you have been involved with extracurricular activities since grade school, it could be a big chunk of your life that falls to the wayside.
Besides what you lose when you graduate, there is what you gain: a whole lot of stress and uncertainty. Some graduates face sobering realities about the job market and salaries for entry-level positions that might not line up with what they were expecting. If a former student cannot find a job in their field of study, they might start to suffer from feelings of rejection and anxiety. Depression symptoms can be a natural outgrowth of these stresses in conjunction with the sudden lack of daily responsibilities.
The Next Chapter: If you are a recent graduate, you might be enjoying your new freedom for the moment, but be watchful for some of these symptoms of depression:
•Feeling hopeless or helpless •Increased agitation or irritability •Appetite or weight changes
•Loss of interest in daily activities •Changes in sleep habits •Difficulty concentrating •Reckless behavior
•Physical aches and pains
The good news is that you are not alone, and there are lots of other people who share your experiences and can commiserate with you. The better news is that there is professional support right in your community if you need it. AMITA Health offers comprehensive services to help individuals navigate this difficult transition.
If you, a friend or a loved one is a recent graduate struggling in a post-diploma world, the doctors and therapists at AMITA Health Center for Mental Health in Arlington Heights are standing by to help. Request an appointment online or reach out by calling 847-952-7460.