Post peace corp depression (+What it is and how to cope)

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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

This article will discuss the concept of post peace corp depression. It will explain what it is, how joining the peace corps can cause depressive disorder, and how a person can cope with post peace Corps depression.

What is post peace Corps depression?

Post peace corp depression is not a clinical condition, but it is the name given to what people experience when they leave the peace corps. The peace corp can be a positive experience for some people, but it might also be an extremely stressful institution, and after some time, people can feel depressed. 

But let’s understand better what is the peace corps, why should people consider to be a part of it, and when they should avoid it.

What is the peace corp? 

The peace corp is an independent agency created in 1961. It is run by the American government, and its main goal is to offer people and other communities social and economic development assistance. 

It is set as a volunteer work that has had more than 235 thousand volunteers. They are usually college graduates that agree to be part of the institution and work abroad for 2 years, plus 3 more months of training. 

While abroad, the volunteers will work with government institutions, schools, and non-profit institutions of the country they are in. Not only that, but they can also work with youth development and community agriculture. 

Deciding to be part of the peace corp needs to be a well-thought-out decision. This is not an easy job, and not everyone finds it easy to do it. And if you do it without considering the pros and cons, it can cause you to get depressed. Let’s discuss what should make joining the peace corps interesting to you, and why you should avoid it.

What are the reasons to join the peace corps? 

Being part of the peace corps can be amazing. It is a chance to see new cultures and help people. You are being part of the change, teaching, but also learning about new languages, cultures, and new abilities. 

Getting out of your comfort zone can give you a chance to grow as a person, and you can do that with the support of this institution and the many friends you will make along the way.

It can also be a good financial proposition for some people, being that while you are volunteering, if you have student loans, those can be forgiven.

From it, you can also apply for many educational offers. Such as some master’s courses or even fellowships, and not only that, you will be taught, during your training, the mother tongue of the country you are going to, and more about its culture.

Having done this volunteer job can make your resumé stand out. It will show how open you are to challenges. So there are great benefits to being part of the peace corps. They are personal benefits and career ones. 

But some things should be considered as negative when deciding to join the peace corps. Let’s take a look at those.

Post peace corp depression (+What it is and how to cope)

Why should I avoid joining the peace corps?

When considering joining the peace corps some aspects need to be considered since it can have a huge impact on your quality of life and even on your mental health. For example, when you are on location with the peace corps you can be, at times, isolated. 

You will probably be the only volunteer there, and at some places, it is even hard to have digital communication with people from home. Because of that, you should consider what effects this can have on you. Knowing, for example, that this can even cause you to get depressed at times.

Being in a new culture can be amazing, but sometimes the cultural differences can take their toll on you. You can feel disconnected and it can be traumatic at times. 

Along with that, people usually volunteer to the peace corps to make the world a better place, but sometimes the achievements are frustrating, and you won’t be able to do everything you ever wanted.

It will also not be the main goal in your life. Even though some people may apply to it as a way of finding new meanings to their life, that will most likely be a frustration. With all that said, let’s discuss how being part of the peace corps can impact your mental health.

How my mental health can be affected by joining the peace corps

Being part of the peace corps can be a time of self-discovery, that will change the way you see yourself and the world. But it is important to consider how it can also harm your mental health.

Since it can cause you to feel so distant from your reality, isolated and lonely, some people may experience mental health issues, such as depression, that can cause them to leave the organization.

Going back to their usual life may also not be easy. After two years living abroad, in such different cultures, can make you lose touch with things you used to be familiar with. All of this can make you lose your sense of purpose, and feel empty, which can lead to a post peace corps depression. 

It can be caused by this loss of touch with the place where you are from, or even by negative experiences you lived through in the country you are working in. 

For example, you can be designated to work in a sexist country, and as a woman, you can have to deal with harassment situations, and even though the organization will take care of you, dealing with this reality can be too stressful.

How can you cope with post peace corp depression? 

If someone develops post peace corps depression, it might be important to look for support right away. If you feel your depression is coming from a traumatic experience you lived through at work, you can look for support groups related to the matter. Those will help you feel accepted and validated in what you went through.

In some cases, if depression is too intense, medication might be needed. It can help improve your symptoms and your sense of well-being. Along with medication, being in therapy can be a great way to create strategies to cope with what you have been through.

Aside from that, if going back to your life after the peace corps seems to be the problem, give yourself some time to adjust. You might need some time to relax, to get in touch with people again, and figure out what you want to do. 

In that adjustment period, keep in touch with colleagues you made through the peace corps. This may help you not feel so alone, and keep in mind the learning and experiences you lived through in that time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): What is post peace corp depression? 

What are the main countries the peace corps are in? 

The peace corps is active in many countries across the globe. But the region they are most present is in Africa, being that 45% of their workforce are serving in the continent. 

After that, 19% of the peace corps workforce are in Central and South America, followed by 13% in Eastern Europe and 12% in Asia. 

Is it possible to start having suicidal thoughts after volunteering for the peace corps? 

Yes, it is possible to have suicidal thoughts after volunteering for the peace corps. If you feel like your volunteering work was a traumatic experience for you, it can cause you to feel depressed, and even experience suicidal thoughts. 

That is why it is so important to look for help if, after leaving the peace corps, you start to feel depressed. Through therapy, you will be able to talk about your emotions and find a better way to deal with them without hurting yourself. 

How do I know the difference between suicidal thoughts? 

There are two types of suicidal thoughts. The first one is usually a fleeting thought. In it, the person might think they want to avoid a situation or a source of angst. But you don’t consider doing it. It is mostly a fantasy.

But the second type of suicidal thought tends to be more dangerous. In it, the person not only starts to consider their death but plans it. They start to think about what way they would do it, and when. At that moment, they can start to give away their belongings, or say goodbye to their loved ones. 

Along with that, their sleeping pattern can change, they might also become more agitated and irritable. If you notice someone going through that, it might be important to look for professional help, and not leave them to allow, since in an impulsive moment they can attempt something.

What causes depression? 

Depression can be caused by many things. It can be caused by a traumatic situation, such as the loss of a loved one, or even a traumatic experience while volunteering at the peace corps. It can also be caused by some imbalance in the person’s brain.

Not only that, people that have a family history of depression, can also have a higher chance of getting depressed. The same can be said by people that have been through a previous depressive episode. The important thing when talking about depression is to try and always be careful of your mental health.

Does the peace corps check my mental health?

Once you decide to join the peace corps, they will do a background check on you. They can deny you from being a part of the organization if you have a criminal record. Your mental health will also be accessed when you apply for it.

But having a mental health illness, as long as it is under treatment, is not something that will prevent you from joining the peace corps. What the organization will do is keep tabs on how your health is when you are volunteering. 

And all the information given during those medical appointments will be put on your medical records. The same will be done once you return home from the peace corps. And if needed they can give you treatment and many humanitarian services. 

Conclusion

This article discussed the concept of post peace corp depression. It explained what it is, how joining the peace corps can cause depressive disorder, and how people can cope with it.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write it in the section below.

References

https://www.zippia.com/advice/should-i-join-the-peace-corps/
https://www.themuse.com/amp/advice/life-after-the-peace-corps-how-to-adjust-when-youre-back-home
https://www.peacexpeace.org/can-i-be-in-the-peace-corps-with-depression/