Seasonal depression takes a bigger toll with the added effect of the coronavirus pandemic

Grace Scarberry, Reporter

The popular Tik-Tok song echoes through millions of ears worldwide.

“All the leaves are brown… and the skies are grey.”

As teenagers laugh and make new videos to share with peers, it is important to realize that this change of weather this time of year affects many people in drastic ways. 

According to Mental Health America, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs throughout the fall and winter months. 

Studies conducted by Mental Health America have shown that five percent of the U.S. population experiences SAD in any given year, however, this is only the reported cases. Although it can affect anyone at any time, four out of five of the cases are women. 

Being a subtype, seasonal depression can impact individuals who already experience mental illness. 

Jesse Baker, a Fall 2021 incoming freshman, has struggled with depression for years, and faces even greater challenges during these colder and darker months. 

 “Depression has affected my life in so many ways it’s hard to keep track sometimes,” he said. “It affects my self image, my social life, and even just the way I do things. It has also pretty much made me more paranoid overall… Winter is more depressing right now just because winter is when a lot of people get sick so it’s very scary in that regard.”

The coronavirus shutdown has added to the struggles individuals face as winter has approached. 

“ [My depression] has definitely worsened during Covid. The entire shutdown is honestly just scary when you think about how detrimental it can be towards mental health,” Baker said. 

Seasonal depression typically affects those aging 20-30 years old. However, symptoms can arise earlier. 

Mental Health America said it is difficult to distinguish between seasonal depression and other types of depressions because they share very similar signs and symptoms such as misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, diminished interest in activities, despair and apathy.

Baker offered advice for how to help others or oneself when experiencing these difficult emotions during the pandemic and winter months. 

“The first thing is, you shouldn’t overthink or overblow a situation,” he said. “By that I mean if someone you know gets it just do the best you can to be supportive and don’t destroy yourself about it if you aren’t able to help them as much as you’d like to. Secondly I would try to get a good sleep schedule. Depression for some can mean a lack of control in their lives, or at least they feel like that. Falling asleep and waking up at the exact times can help start getting that feeling back a bit.”

In addition, studies have shown that exposure to bright lights or consumption of antidepressants may be needed in order to overcome seasonal depression. 

Overall, it is important to find a support system or treatment to overcome these emotions. Baker has managed his depression by staying in contact with his closest friends, which he said are his biggest supporters. 

Preventative measures can also be taken, according to Mental Health America by beginning light therapy in the early fall before the onset of symptoms, exercising more, increasing the amount of light at home, meditation and other stress management techniques, spending more time outside and visiting climates that have more sun.