November 2020 Volume 3, Issue 3
As the seasons are changing, final exams are approaching, and students may be feeling a bit overwhelmed or suffering from a common mental health issue, Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) also known as seasonal depression.
S.A.D. is a mental health issue triggered by the change in seasons and effects around 3-million people each year. It is also a problem that Sauk Valley Community College counselors have seen in SVCC students.
Young adults are most susceptible to developing S.A.D according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Seeking help from a counselor at Sauk Valley Community College is “highly accessible” completely free and “confidential” and they are always available to help students in need.
Jennifer Hooker, a counselor at SVCC, said there can be other factors at play when it comes to students’ mental health now including the Covid-19 pandemic. Hooker stated she “likes to examine how the person is doing medically” i.e. “how they are sleeping, how they are eating…making sure their basic needs are being met.”
Hooker also stated that during the winter months there is an increased amount of melatonin in our systems which can cause us to feel fatigued. One of the best ways she recommended to manage this fatigue is to sit under a natural light therapy lamp for “20 minutes a day as soon as you wake up in the morning.”
Hooker later went on to state tips to help prevent and manage Seasonal Affective Disorder including exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, hanging out with friends, finding activities that increase endorphins, and not isolating ourselves during the winter months.
Valerie Kern-Lyons, a counselor at SVCC, said “we’d be remissed to ignore the elephant of Covid in the room.” Kern-Lyons went on to say that isolation is something we have all experienced this year and can soon become “intensified” as we enter into the winter months. Kern-Lyons said “we need to be even more conscious of the people around us right now and the effect of approaching winter and the loss of light because that internal light is maybe not as bright as it would be going into a normal season.”
Kris Widolff, a counselor at SVCC, said when it comes to S.A.D “let’s pay more attention to each other…take the time to pause and observe ‘how am I doing, how are the people around me doing?’” Widolff also emphasized the importance of looking for changes in family and friends’ moods and to genuinely ask those around us how they are feeling.
Kern-Lyons mentioned that they are also in partnership with Sinnissippi Centers and Whiteside County Health Department which are other resources available in the community.
People who have struggled with mental health issues in the past or are still dealing with the conditions are at a greater risk of experiencing seasonal depression. Genetics and inheritance also play a role in S.A.D.; if a family member has a mental illness or seasonal depression, their children and grandchildren are at a greater risk for developing mental health issues like S.A.D.
Students who are struggling with mental health problems are encouraged to reach out to SVCC counselors by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Students can also use the resources available on their webpage, https://www.svcc.edu/students/counseling/resources.html, in order to better understand and find ways to treat a variety of mental health issues.