Wellness corner: seasonal depression takes toll, school should respond

Jamie Henderson

When it comes to feeling sad or depressed  during the winter, 53 percent responded that they tend to feel more sad or depressed during the winter, according to a Dec. 5 poll of 121 upper school students. Sixty-eight percent reported that they tend to feel more anxious or stressed during the winter. Sixty-six percent said that they do not and 15 percent said that it was not from a professional but from someone they trust.

When it comes to feeling sad or depressed during the winter, according to a Dec. 5 poll of 121 upper school students, 53 percent responded that they tend to feel more sad or depressed during the winter. Sixty-eight percent reported that they feel more anxious or stressed during the winter. Sixty-six percent of upper schoolers reported that they do not seek professional help when dealing with these feelings. And of the 15 percent that did receive help, after having reported these feelings, they did not do so through a professional. 

Now, with the days becoming much shorter and the weather turning colder, a large percentage of students reported an increase in feelings of sadness and admitted to overall worsened mental health. The school should be proactive and help students get equipped with the proper resources and tools to combat seasonal depression and help improve the mental lives of many. The term seasonal depression is also referred to as seasonal affective disorder, which some medical professionals refer to as SAD. With people indoors a lot more and with less exposure to sunlight, people can develop a milder version called “winter blues.” 

According to the Cleveland Clinic’s website, five percent of adults in America experience SAD and 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans experience the winter blues. It is more common in women, younger people, people with preexisting mood disorders or with relatives suffering from it already. Living far north or south of the equator or in cloudy regions can also affect how common it is. Some symptoms to watch out for are increased sadness or anxiety, carb cravings, weight gain, extreme fatigue, loss of interest in activities that interest you, lack of energy and feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.

The National Institute of Mental Health published that exposure to sunlight is crucial for vitamin D production, which promotes serotonin — a mood stabilizer. During the winter months, we get approximately four hours less of sunlight than during the summer months. Our bodies, therefore, produce less vitamin D. Some people who suffer from SAD, may benefit from light therapy which exposes patients to white fluorescent light covered in a plastic screen to block ultraviolet rays. This light is 20 times brighter than a regular light and can help lessen symptoms of depression.

At ESD, on top of shorter days, student’s stress is added to with upcoming winter exams. Students can feel more anxious or hopeless.

To help these students cope with these feelings, there are a few actions ESD can take. First, more time in fresh air and sunlight during the day. Teachers can hold more classes or activities in any of the campus’ beautiful outdoor areas. Secondly, we should utilize advisory time in a way that benefits students more. Advisors could do mental health check-ins once a week to see how their advisees are doing emotionally. Students can also take charge of their own mental health by going straight to a trusted adult or medical/mental health professional when they start to experience symptoms. If emotional issues are taken care of when first symptoms appear, hopefully, they won’t become too disruptive in everyday life.

 Seasonal depression needs to be taken seriously and actions should be taken to alleviate students of this weight they feel they have to carry alone. Make sure to pay attention and look out for these changes in your community and loved ones as the seasons continue to change.

Pull Percentage: 53 out of 121 students said that they tend to feel more sad or depressed during the winter. Source: Dec. 5 upper school student poll

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