Struggles with mental health are increasingly common amongst students.
As you look towards graduation, it’s worth thinking about the potential triggers and hardships and the effect that they could have on your mental health.
From difficulties making friends to the frustration of living back with your parents, from the uncertainty of the job hunt to the busyness of working life – whichever of these situations you find yourself in, post-graduation life can be sprinkled or flooded with feelings of disappointment, frustration, failure, exhaustion, loneliness and unsettledness.
Humans are created to have and experience all sorts of emotions, and Christians living in a fallen world are not exempt from pain and illness (whether physical or mental). We thank God for his common grace to us in giving us doctors and counsellors and medicines to help us manage all sorts of illness (including mental illness). We also recognise that whilst we often can’t help the illness that we suffer from, we can, as those united to Christ by the Spirit, help the way that we respond to and in our illness.
Whatever emotions you’re feeling as anticipate graduation, here are a few thoughts from a (somewhat) recent graduate who has struggled with mental illness:
There are a lot of reasons that post-graduation life can be difficult. Even if you are having a wonderful time, don’t underestimate the effect of busyness and change on your emotions. Feeling low or stressed at times is normal and not something to worry about it. If you find yourself experiencing prolonged periods of low mood or anxiety (particularly if that anxiety doesn’t seem to have a source) and you’re finding that it is making it difficult to eat, sleep or concentrate, then it is probably worth going and speaking to your GP about getting some help.
In the busyness of working life, I’ve found ballet classes and a weekly knitting group such a helpful break from the norm. A chance to think about something other than work, and to begin to build friendships with new people. Exercise, in particular, is generally seen to improve mood and reduce anxiety, so worth trying to find time for.
Church life as a graduate can be quite a different experience, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Whilst you may have been a bit of a temporary member of your uni church (with all of those long holidays away), working life is different, and this church that you join may end up being the one you stay at for the rest of your life. As with everything else, you may find that building relationships takes longer here as well, as you have less time on your hands than you did as a student, but it’s worth investing properly in a local church as soon as you can.
Whilst you were probably part of a church with lots of other students, you may find that in post-graduation life there aren’t as many who are at the same stage as you. This is normal and can be a good thing. It is good for us to be friends with people who are not like us, as well as those who are, and you will probably find their friendship to be helpful and valuable as you work out how to cope with all of the struggles and difficulties of this new stage of life.
In times of both sadness and joy, church family is vital. Find people who will rejoice with you and weep with you, and encourage you to keep holding on to Jesus as He holds on to you.
Sometimes we can think that when we’re struggling that God won’t want or be able to use us. This simply isn’t true!
All of us are struggling - that’s part of what it means to be a Christian. We are the poor in spirit – the ones who know that we have nothing of our own to offer and so turn instead to Jesus to save and work in and through us. As Paul reminds his readers in 2 Corinthians:
‘We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that his all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’
I’ve had depression for the last 4 years, and I’ve been involved in full-time Christian ministry all of that time. It has been so hard at times, but also so wonderful to see God at work during that time - not just ‘in spite’ of my illness, but through it and in it as well.
He’s a very good God.
For more advice on seeking professional help, have a look at these mental health resources.
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