The first day of March saw University Mental Health Day, a national awareness day which sought to promote wellbeing and support for students and staff at universities across the UK, as well as to encourage the launching of events surrounding such topics.
At first engagement, it may appear counterintuitive to have a day which focuses on such a small community, and that the idea derails wider conversation about ailing mental health across our country.
However, as I have explored previously in these columns, mental health in higher education universities across the UK is currently at breaking point, and requires specific and sufficient focus. These columns have seen me discuss student mental health on numerous occasions previously.
I’ve drawn attention to the male mental health issues on campus, the shift in drug use patterns at British universities, and the extensive cuts to mental health funding across numerous UK institutions.
Through all of these columns there has been the undercurrent that the university environment, whilst it can be fulfilling, engaging and a fantastic experience, it can also be a recipe for multiple mental health issues.
Deadlines, money issues, lacking a support network, and the constant flow of new experiences can ultimately lead to individuals feeling anxious, depressed or otherwise suffering.
The focus on student mental health often targets these factors, which can lead to the belief that once a student graduates, and the factors are dismissed, then a higher level of wellbeing will follow.
I would suggest that this view can actually be damaging, that we must not ignore the rising tide of what has been termed ‘post-graduate depression’.In the same way that students can struggle to adapted when catapulted into university life, falling out the other end can raise similar experiences.
The years which immediately follow graduation are characterised by a series of events which breed poor mental health. For those who don’t land their dream job and move home, they may feel that their life is stagnating or moving backwards.
On the other end of the spectrum, those who begin high pressure jobs may feel extremely stressed, and they may fail to find time to sustain the friendships they spent their period of study building.
Post graduate depression is an increasing phenomenon. Whilst statistics on the topic are difficult to find, talk to any graduate and they will be able to identify these experiences in themselves or a friend.
With the lack of structure that follows university life, it is unfortunately inevitable, but by striking up this conversation, you can give them support.
Reece Parker is Editor-in-Chief of The Gryphon at Leeds University