February Blues

Seasonal affective disorder, is a mood disorder in which healthy individuals experience symptoms of depression during the winter months. (Photo/Garrett Leffelman)

For many students, faculty and members of society, mental health is an important topic that sometimes fails to reach the people who need it the most. With the drastic weather changes these past few weeks, what people often fail to realize is that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real and affects half a million Americans, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

SAD is more than just the “winter blues.” It occurs around the same time every year, usually starting in the winter and can last up to months at a time. The main cause of SAD is less availability to sunlight, affecting our internal biological clock that regulates our mood and hormones.

Students are common sufferers of this disorder as they deal with the stress and pressure of school; and the unavailability of sunlight doesn’t help with either. At the University of Georgia, student organizations put together events to address this issue and assist students.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness on Campus UGA hosts various events such as support groups available to everyone.  On Jan. 6, the group will host its “Ending the Silence” presentation which aims to help students learn about warning signs of mental illness.

“Our events provide a space for people to come and interact with people that are going through similar things,” Lauren Joiner Paul, the founder of NAMI on Campus UGA, said. “The people that suffer from [SAD] are not alone and it’s actually normal for our bodies to react this way.”

The symptoms which result from SAD are similar to other types of depression, so sometimes it can be difficult for people to determine if the season is causing it. Because of this, SAD often goes undiagnosed or is treated as normal depression. A result of having SAD is a lack of appetite, change in mood and irregular sleep patterns. 

Common treatments for SAD is light therapy, which is where a person sits near a light therapy box while sitting or working to obtain “sunlight,” and prescribed medication according to the Mayo Clinic. 

Socializing, even though it may be difficult, is another form of treatment and can give someone support and allow the sharing of emotions from another person which can help with recovery from SAD.

“We need to reduce the stigmas overall about mental health disorders in order for SAD to be talked about on college campuses,” Paul said. 

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) at UGA’s Health Center also provides services that specifically help with SAD such as a free, light therapy room.

Next semester, UGA’s Student Government Association and the Health Center will host a Mental Wellness Summit on Jan. 14 at the Georgia Museum of Art. The event will feature a screening of the film “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” and host a discussion afterward. 


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