Owen Babb

Mental Health: Seasonal Affective Disorder heard of the “winter blues?” Ever felt worried and anxious as winter rolls around? Many people do and in fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, millions of people in the United States and around the world have reported a winter-related low mood. However, there is a form of depression that goes much further.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is reaching its peak as winter pears around the corner, with lower temperatures and shorter days. This illness, triggered by the changing of seasons, may cause someone to have increased feelings of sadness, a lack of energy, lose interest in usual activities, oversleep, and even gain weight. It can greatly affect one’s daily life, feelings, and thoughts, and it’s crucial to know the effects, recognize the symptoms, and know of additional resources for SAD to better understand and support your friends and family.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 1 in 6 children, ages 6-17, experience a mental health disorder each year, and nearly 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses start by the age of 14. A mental illness is a condition that has effects on an individual’s thinking, feeling, behavior, and mood, ultimately affecting their overall day-to-day living and their ability to relate to others. There are many causes for mental illnesses such as someone’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle, but this also means everyone is affected differently. 

Recognizing the signs of a mental illness can be very challenging and there is no one way to test if someone has one. Some common symptoms/behaviors of a mental illness include excessive worrying or fear, feeling excessively sad or low, problems concentrating and learning, stronger feelings of irritability and anger, and isolation from friends and family. 

If you believe you or someone you know may be struggling with a mental illness, the most important thing to note is that mental health conditions are far more common than you may think, so talk to a trusted adult if you have any worries. NAMI suggests that the best first step toward treatment is receiving an accurate diagnosis from a trained medical professional. For seasonal depression, they may suggest evidence-based medications, light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, vitamin D supplements, and even just spending more time outdoors. There are many options available for everyone. 

Try reaching out to your health insurance, primary health care provider, or state/county mental authority for more resources. If you don’t know who to talk to, try contacting specialists through the NAMI HelpLine (800-900-NAMI) to find out what services and support are available in your community, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. The volunteers there are available to answer questions, offer support, and provide practical next steps for you or someone else. They are the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization that is dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. You can also call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. 

Do not be afraid to talk to someone. There are many opportunities for recovery. You are not alone.