By Will Kamps, Thomas Henbest, Brock Mackinnis & Elsie McElroy
“Beware the ides of March.” Hundreds of years ago, Shakespeare wrote these words referring to the betrayal of Julius Cesar by Brutus. Now some Green Bay residents’ sense of anxiety and betrayal are growing as the long winter marches on, leaving many with seasonally affective depression.
According to the journal, Psychology Today, seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is estimated to be affecting nearly 10 million Americans every year. SAD is when an individual experiences a major depressive episode(s) during the same season(s) each year for at least two years. The most common time where seasonal depression starts is either late fall or winter. It starts to recede when spring starts. However, there are a few rare cases where the summer months cause seasonal affective disorder. While the concrete reason why people suffer from seasonal depression is currently unknown, some evidence lends that it is a lack of Vitamin D and an increase of melatonin from shortened days and longer nights.
Common symptoms of seasonal depression include feeling hopeless, suicidal, constant fatigue, and avoidance of social activities. In northern states, like Wisconsin, seasonal depression is far more common. An anonymous source who has SAD described it as “…this overwhelming feeling dread and hopelessness that gets amplified in the winter months.”
There are several areas that one can seek treatment for seasonal depression. For local UW-Green Bay students, one location is the Wellness Center. Located in the Student Services Building, Room 1400, the Wellness Center offers “free and confidential mental health services,” according to their webpage. Part of the free services offered is general mental wellness, which can cover adjustment issues, anxiety, stress, and depression. The Wellness Center is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. They can be easily contacted by their phone number: (920) 465-2380.
Outside of UW-Green Bay, there are also options for the community for mental support. One such support group is National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI Brown County. According to the grassroots organization’s website, NAMI is the “nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.”
One of NAMI’s abilities is the Peer-to-Peer groups, where individuals from the community can come in and learn how to live with their mental illnesses. There are also the NAMI Support Groups, which are facilitated by trained professionals in helping people navigate and support their way into recovery for their various mental illnesses. NAMI Brown County Co-Vice President Amy Helein says that the vital first step to reaching recovery is “Reaching out for help is the most courageous step a person can do to start the process of healing and recovery – the first step can be a conversation with a trusted friend, family member or healthcare professional.” If you wish to contact NAMI, they can be reached by either their phone number, (920) 371-0961, or by their website with an answer drop-box.
There are a variety of treatments that one can utilize for dealing with seasonal depression. According to Psychology Today, one such treatment is called “broad-band light therapy,” where the individual has a lamp that mimics outdoor lights. The person essentially sits in front of the lamp for 30 to 60 minutes per day, depending on the severity of the depression, and it’s supposed to help with the Vitamin D deficiency and the mental process of light. Other treatments are vitamin D supplements, therapy or counseling, and antidepressant medications.
However, it is important to note that there is no one treatment that fits everyone. Helein says, “It’s important to note symptoms can be similar. However, individuals do not necessarily find the same strategies helpful – working on your own wellness plan can make a big difference.” Mental health is a personal journey, and it is important to treat it as such. However, it is also just as important to know that no one is alone.