Living in Michigan my whole life makes me no stranger to our winters, but I am aware that not everyone here at K College is from the Mitten State, or even from the grand old US of A. The cold weather, lake-effect snow, and drastic reduction of sunlight can be an extreme change for those from more tropical or desert climes; so it is possible that your mental health changes with the weather, resulting in what mental health professionals call Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, has been commonly referred to as the ‘winter blues,’ when in reality it’s so much more than that. I find the winter months especially hard, since I have SAD in addition to anxiety.
SAD is actually a type of depression that comes with the changing seasons, usually triggered by the reduced amount of sunlight in the winter.
Between 1% and 10% of the population can experience it, and the statistics vary widely depending on geographical locations, according to Medicinenet.com
The Mayo Clinic states that symptoms resemble those of depression, including feelings of sadness, low energy, fatigue, and lack of interest in activities. SAD results in the low levels of serotonin and melatonin present in the brains of those affected, altering their state of mind.
Dismissing SAD, to say it is just a result of the winter months, really diminishes the experiences of those who suffer, as well as to enable the stigma against mental illness.
The stereotype that mental illness, especially mood disorders like depression, are just “all in the head” or in this case “all in the weather,” silences this very important conversation before it can even begin. It makes it difficult for people who do suffer from mental illness to seek help and get healthy.
It is important that while we acknowledge SAD affects students in the winter, there are other illnesses which affect people year round. Neither one is less significant or less traumatic for the person that is suffering.
SAD is not something you have to suffer through alone. There are plenty of resources available for those who need it. Whether that be the counseling center, your RA’s, or a light lamp, coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder is possible on campus.