Finding resources during prominent S.A.D. months
The coming winter months bring more than just snow to west Michigan. The cold winds, blistering snow and absence of the sun contribute to the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which over 10 million Americans experience. SAD, known more commonly as seasonal depression, causes fatigue, decreased activity and feelings of hopelessness. With Grand Valley State University being located in an area of the United States that sees minimal amounts of sunlight during the winter months, it is important that students are aware of how weather conditions can affect their mood and productivity.
Finding resources and a support system that work are essential to students who may be battling seasonal depression. It is important that GVSU as an institution promotes counseling and mental health resources to ensure their students are receiving the support they need.
On top of the effects of SAD, the month of December is also a time of holiday stress and final examinations for universities. Students are likely to feel this added weight of responsibility that can contribute to a loss of motivation and poor marks in the final stretch of the semester. More than 10 million Americans suffer from SAD, yet many associate the effects to stress rather than a seasonal disorder. The first step to tackling this issue is spreading awareness about SAD and how it may be affecting students in the coming months.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), SAD is diagnosed in women four times as often than in men and is more prominent in young people. GVSU students are highly susceptible to SAD thanks to the majority enrollment of young adults, the high percentage of female students as well as the location of the university. Falling so far from the equator, Michigan sees an average of six sunny days in the month of December, which is a serious lack of sun for residents.
While there is not a cure for seasonal depression, there are forms of therapy that can relieve symptoms. One form is light therapy, which provides patients with daily exposure to an artificial light to replace diminished sunlight during the winter months and treat the effects of SAD. Increasing Vitamin D consumption can also provide SAD patients with the crucial supplements that are usually facilitated through sun exposure.
GVSU's counseling center is a great resource for learning more about SAD and the possible treatments available. NIMH cites counseling therapy as an effective treatment for SAD that targets the negative thoughts associate with the winter months. The university counseling center offers individual and group counseling all year for students. Their website also has an online anonymous mental health screening for students looking to determine if they need mental health assistance.
Facilitating informative resources to students can assist those struggling during this time of the year. As a university and as a student body, we all must be looking out for ourselves and for each other when SAD months are most prominent as well as year round.