Change inevitably brings uncertainty; whether you progress from primary school to high school, from high school to college, Technicon or university, and then on to the workplace. Besides insecurity and uncertainty, everything else that comes with change may also throw us a curve ball which, mentally speaking, may knock us down.
To avoid feelings of failure or depression, proper planning, preparation and prioritising can be very helpful to assist us to successfully manage these transitions, advises Megan Hosking, psychiatric intake clinician at Akeso Psychiatric Clinic Group.
“For example, speaking to older students doing your course to understand what you can expect, or talking to those at your new workplace to understand the new environment. It is most important to allow yourself time to adapt to the transition, and to not expect too much from yourself too soon. While realistic goals are important, finding your way in a new system, understanding it and your expectations are also important. When on a new campus, familiarising yourself with it (or your new work environment) can likewise assist with the transition,” Hosking explains
Balance is key
To help manage potential depression, balance is one of the keys that can assist, Hosking stresses, providing the following advice:
- Join a club or society to meet new people and make new friends – in doing so, you will form a new support system.
- Find something you enjoy doing and that helps you relax.
- Balance between academic life and social life is vital, as too much emphasis on one can lead you to feel pressure and stress for the other.
- Be aware of support systems, and actually access them; this is probably one of the most useful things – whether this is student support on campus, a leader in your residence, or a supervisor at work. Find out what services are available and access them sooner rather than later.
- Work to develop personal skills.
“Failing to do the above, there might be depression and anxiety symptoms, feeling of being overwhelmed, feelings of loneliness and homesickness, feelings of stress, and difficulty being motivated - 30% of first year students found it difficult to motivate themselves1,” she adds.
According to her, if not addressed and dealt with adequately, this can lead to unhealthy and even dangerous “coping” methods such as alcohol and drug use. “Suicide is the second most common cause of death amongst university students2, so sadly this is a possibility too if the feelings are unresolved and overwhelming.
“Young people between the ages of 19 and 24 are considered to be the most at-risk group for depression and suicide3. 20% of university students have suicidal thoughts at some point during their university career, and with student suicides, 90% are found to have a psychiatric diagnosis2. This does indicate that mental health issues are far more common than we realise, and it’s important to know that with intervention and through seeking help for appropriate treatment, there is always hope for recovery and feeling better.”