Is Mental Health a Risk for Recent Grads?

This subject is not one that is touched on very often, but it is something that sometimes crosses my mind. Graduates are often seen as indestructible machines, with their energies simply redirected from party hard to work hard. Many of them will have completed some work experience while at university, so how hard can their first “proper” job be?

Well, pretty damn hard actually, although you may not see any signs.

The first few years after university are a unique time in someone’s life. They are often “on their own” in all aspects of life for the first time, making their way as best they can, and for many the road ahead is less than clear. With student debts at astronomic levels, there is a pressing need to start their careers as soon as they graduate, but for many of them, there will still be many unanswered questions about where they are going.

The potential for stress lies around every corner.

I am glad that mental health is getting more press these days. Rather than having a “shut up and deal with it” approach to employees, managers are increasingly aware of just how debilitating mental health issues can be. The UK economy loses billions to “presenteeism” every day, and the youngest members of the workforce have as much to distract their minds as anyone.

For me, the solution lies in encouraging grads to be open.

If a business expects them to turn up in a (mental) suit of armour and unflinchingly take on everything that is thrown at them, burnout will not be far away. The grads won’t feel that they can give feedback if they need help, and they will carry the burden in silence.

If, however, a business recognises that grads will often find the early stages of their career difficult, it will encourage them to share their thoughts and fears. In this way, others can get involved to improve their situation, and they will build stronger relationships with those around them. If you suffer in silence, nothing will change. If you invite others to help you in your suffering, both you and they will grow as a result.

In the worst-run businesses, grads are used to do the menial tasks that no one else wants to handle. These jobs are often still fraught with difficulties for the first-timer, but if there is a “get on with it and don’t come to me until it is done” attitude, it is easy to see how quickly an ambitious grad can become demoralised. No matter what the work concerns, there should always be a willingness to stand alongside a recent grad to help and coach them.

If grads feel that their employers are there to help, no matter what, they will feel comfortable asking for help. If they are happy to ask for help when they need it, their heads will be freed of worry, their learning and development will be expedited and they will ready to take on the tasks that add-value and drive their employers forward.