Take steps now to mitigate post-graduation depression

Emily Unruh

It is not uncommon to long for graduation, especially during midterm and finals seasons. It is easy to imagine a new, more relaxed life without all-nighters or skipped meals, without stress over projects, homework and exams. However, according to CNBC, more millennials are experiencing a type of “quarter-life crisis,” instead of the freedom and dream life they expected.

According to therapists and postings in internet chat rooms by recent graduates, symptoms include an abnormally negative perspective, decreased motivation to get out of bed, a general sense of hopelessness and, occasionally, substance abuse.

Zac Surritt, a Washburn senior and public administration major with a business minor, said he used to avoid thinking about the future, instead focusing hard on college and living in the present.

However, “as I get older, I realize I need to look more post college, and reprioritize … I think it scares me a bit,” Surritt said.

Surritt said his “reprioritization” led to him changing his major, as well as adding a minor. Surritt said that his plans changed and, as he looked further ahead, researching helped. “I think just having a plan [is important]. I used to make Excel spreadsheets and research. Set your priorities early. They may change, but have somewhat of a goal,” said Surritt.

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While post-college depression might be a growing epidemic, Jimena Bort, a sophomore elementary education major, the concept seems isolated to the United States. Bort, who is from Paraguay, explains that the college experience in her home nation is worlds apart.

“You live at home, and college is at night,” said Bort, “college is 30 minutes away and you just drive there and go for four hours a night.”

She used to work at a preschool and attend college at night, until she came to the States to finish her education. Bort said that life just continues after college in Paraguay, and not much changes.

“Sometimes I’m bored, I don’t have anything to do here,” she said, referring to the difference in work schedules between the two countries.

Although not an official designation by the American Psychiatric Association, the term “post-graduation depression” is a term used by a few therapists to describe the sadness, loss of motivation, helplessness and isolation of life after the diploma. Director of Washburn Counseling Services Crystal Leming said that, while she had never heard of the term, she isn’t surprised that “post-graduation depression” is spreading. Leming says that college is focused around structure and friendships, as well as doing things that make us feel pleasure, all of which often disappears after graduation.

Recent graduate Olivia Henning agrees, saying, “I think it’s hard when all your friends move all over the place. It’s hard to feel connected with the people you used to spend copious amounts of time with.” Henning said that although she has never experienced the feeling herself, she thinks that it is easy to fall into, especially when you don’t make a clear plan and are caught in a limbo.

Leming said that with the high graduation rates (according to the US Department of Education, 59 percent of students graduate college with a bachelor’s degree), and the economy in the state it is, that there is a lowered sense of security and confidence among young people. She suggests, thinking ahead.

“Think about what you wish someone had told you about getting into college,” said Leming, “and if you’re already at that state (feeling depressed) and it is impacting your daily function, definitely visit with someone and get it treated.”

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As graduation gets closer, and the homework gets harder as finals approach, don’t forget to begin to look at your plans for after college. Don’t let yourself be caught unprepared and trapped in limbo. Washburn has student resources including advisers and counselors who are always prepared to meet with students and discuss the future.

Surritt says, “all of these people want to see us here, but they also want to see us leave and be successful after college.”