With shorter days and longer nights it’s understandable that this time of year can be hard on some people.
But there’s a difference between just feeling blue and actually being depressed.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that affects two per cent of the population in the winter season. Lynn Wardell, director of crisis outreach for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Oxford, said SAD is caused by the lack of natural light during fall and winter seasons.
“The reduction of natural daylight starting in the fall season and into the winter certainly is the main contributor,” Wardell said. “Lots of people have the winter blues, which is real, but is not as significant as Seasonal Affective Disorder.”
Wardell said the difference between the winter blues and SAD is that people can function in their everyday routine while feeling lethargic, but SAD is a more serious prolonged experience of fatigue and depression.
“With SAD, symptoms include weight gain, decreases energy and fatigue,” she said. “It’s also for a more prolonged period of time… You might have the winter blues and have changes in your apetite and be lethargic, but you’re still able to participate in your day-to-day activities. With SAD it’s a prolonged experience of decreased energy and fatigue and sometimes to the point where you’re not able to participate in your regular activities.”
When people usually come into CMHA during the winter Wardell said they talk about how the symptoms of SAD are affecting their life.
“They don’t have the energy to do the things that they usually do or would want to do,” she said. “They’re lacking motivation, they’re tired all the time, sometimes it’s just a lot of work to get up and get ready to face the day. A lot of times it’s around the symptoms and how to manage those symptoms.”
Things that people can do to help if they are feeling the affects of SAD or the winter blues are maximize their exposure to sunlight, spend more time outdoors, exercise and eat healthy.
CMHA Oxford also normally sees an increase in the amount of people coming in to use its services during the fall and winter months. This year is different though, Wardell said that because of what has been happening in the community CMHA has seen an increase of people all year.
“We’ve been steadily busy, even through the summer this year,” she said. “We’re actually almost double what we would normally do… When I pulled the stats it was actually quite shocking.”
On average there have been 180 people more each month in 2016 using CMHA Oxford’s services over 2015.
“Say we had contact with 700 people last November, it would be 880 or 900 this year,” Wardell said.
In CMHA Oxford’s walk-in counseling Wardell said they are certainly seeing a lot of youth come in.
“We’re certainly still meeting with youth who are still really struggling with symptoms of depression and anxiety,” she said. “There seems to be a common theme there… There are still a lot of youth struggling in our community.”
Wardell said that there could be a lot of contributing factors to why the youth are felling this way, but added that it probably can’t be pinned down to one exact reason.
There is walk-in counselling in Woodstock on Tuesday at the Oxford Elgin Child and Youth Centre from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Thursday at the Woodstock Hospital from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and at CMHA on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.