Despite thousands of young people graduating from university each year and experiencing post-graduate depression, it is a topic that generally goes unacknowledged. Whilst mental health is thankfully making it’s way into the mainstream and has been spoken about quite openly in recent times, post-graduate depression seems to be a topic that is still hidden behind closed doors. Essentially this is why I wanted to write this post. It is a topic that is close to my heart, something that I have personally experienced and an issue that I hope is openly spoken about in the very near future.

I have never experienced depression before and have generally always been a positive, forward thinking, ambitious individual. I absolutely loved university; my course, the institution, the learning environment. In fact, I enjoyed the whole experience. It was a labour of love, as well as a challenge that I thrived on. As a student, I felt like I could achieve anything that I wanted to. I was motivated, determined to be successful and excited to take on the world.

But when I graduated from university, I experienced feelings which I have never really felt before. Lost. Confused. Empty. Demotivated. Unfulfilled. Despite having a 2:1 degree and a graduate scheme that I competed to secure after five rounds of recruitment, I went into what I could only describe as a slump of sadness. I started questioning the world, my aims and ambitions, and even who I was. Looking back, I can see clearly that I experienced post-graduate depression, but at the time, I was in denial and the only people that were aware of what I was going through were my immediate family.

It’s only really when you start speaking out and sharing your experience with other graduates that you’ll find that many of them had or are still having a similar experience. From my own experience and from my friends, colleagues and fellow graduates that have opened up and shared their experiences with me, here are some of the lessons learned, as well as information and advice that I would like to arm the graduates of the future with:

Leaving education is actually a massive thing

The transition from education to employment is like nothing I have ever experienced. It is such a shock to the system and a completely different way of life. I have always had part-time jobs since being a teenager, but leaving education and starting full-time employment is incomparable. In the UK, from the age of 4 or potentially even earlier, you attend nursery. From 5-11, you go to primary school. From 11-16, you attend high school, followed by college or sixth form from 16-18. Without question, most of your life had been carved out for you and dictated, without you even realising. As lucky as we are and as fantastic as it is, you just went along with the education system that you were born into. The only element of education that you arguably chose was university and by doing so, up to the age of 21, education was all that you ever knew. To leave that way of life, to start working a minimum of 7 hours a day, and for this work to be contributing towards the achievement of somebody or something else’s goals that you (potentially) aren’t interested in, can be quite demotivating and unfulfilling. Moreover, to (potentially again) have to put aside your passions and interests, your plans to change the world and be true to yourself, in order to make money to live, is in some ways quite honestly heartbreaking, and yet it is a part of leaving education, growing up and becoming an adult.

Ignore the pressures of getting a job straight away

When you’re in the last year of university, you’re generally overwhelmed with trying to figure out your next step. You’ll be asked a million and one times by everyone you come into contact with about your ‘plan’ and whether you have anything lined up for after university. Don’t give into this pressure and definitely don’t allow yourself to make decisions purely based on this. I personally let the pressure of going straight into a job after university impact me and I spent a lot of my final months of university applying to graduate schemes that I wasn’t even interested in, just because I assumed that this was the right thing to do. After a relentless application process, I ended up securing a graduate job that was completely unrelated to my degree or anything that I even imagined myself doing; it was completely not for me and I decided to leave after a couple of months. So, don’t rush into anything or give into the pressure of getting a proper job straight out of university. Instead, take your time and think carefully about what you envisage for your next steps. Even consider temporary options or keeping your part-time student job whilst you figure it out?

Don’t lose sight of your passion and interests

Remember why you went to university in the first place? For many students, this was to study a subject that they enjoyed and gain a deeper understanding of that area. I studied English because I enjoyed it. I loved writing, analysing words and finding hidden meanings, and I also believed that this degree would enable me to develop excellent transferable skills for employment. Many of my friends and colleagues studied courses at university for similar reasons. Yet, when you graduate and go into full-time employment, you tend to find yourself with no time to do what you love. Or, you’ll end up making a million excuses about why you can’t get around to it. You’re tired, too busy, have too much to do, can’t be bothered, it won’t get you anywhere, there’s no point.. the list will be endless. However, what you need to do is make time for your passion or interest, whatever it is, even if it’s just 30 minutes a day to start with. Don’t lose this special part of your life or let it go to waste. Believe it or not, this was one of my reasons for starting

Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to be

This is one that I still struggle with despite graduating in 2015, and it’s a popular one among many of my friends, colleagues and other fellow graduates. I still don’t know what I want to be. I have a million ideas that are generally related to writing, empowering people and changing the world, but I don’t know exactly what I want to be. Will I ever know? How are you meant to know? In turn, this gives fire to the fear of unfulfilled potential, which in itself is something that I worry about quite often. I don’t want to be somebody who never figures out what they want to do or never achieves what they set out to. But at the same time, you (and also me) need to remember that your job title doesn’t define who you are. A job is sometimes a means of providing an income to enable you to pay the bills, fund your passion projects/interests and allow you to create memories with your special people. Hopefully one day we will know exactly what we want to be, but for now I am a blogger, writer, twenty-something, feminist and recent graduate!

So there you have it. I hope that my experiences and the lessons that I’ve learned support you post-graduation. I’m not going to tell you that it will be easy or that everything will sort itself out because that’s not what you need to hear (and it’s infuriating!). What you do need to know is:

– It’s okay not to be okay

– You are not alone

– Things will improve

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Postgraduate depression: lessons learned and advice for future graduates Reflecting with a beautiful view. Fairhaven Lake, near Lytham.

Do you worry about post-graduate depression?

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