As winter begins and the fall semester comes to an end, college students are dealing with a seasonal mental health brawl. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or, as it is more commonly known, seasonal depression, is depression that specifically arises in accordance with certain calendar seasons.
SAD most commonly is experienced from the fall to winter months and is worsened by the lack of nutrients from sunlight. Seasonal depression can also be a genetic experience similar to depression as a whole.
Freshman media and journalism major, Alex Kleinschmit said, “Once the weather gets bad it seems like that’s when every class gets harder. It makes it feel like there’s just a constant weight on your chest that you can’t shake.”
The United States’ largest nonprofit which focuses on the needs of people with mental illnesses is called Mental Health America. They cite that over 16 million people deal with seasonal depression on an annual basis. Those individuals experience symptoms that can range from a loss of interest in things they enjoyed heavily in recent history, finding difficulty concentrating or romanticized thoughts of suicide.
“I think seasonal depression in college is a thing that everybody deals with,” freshman English major, Kristina Dorsett said. “Most of us have a lot going on in our classes and with the cold and seeing less sun it makes it hard to be motivated to go to classes and do our work and it all just piles on making us less and less motivated to do much of anything.”
According to the Mayo clinic, 44 percent of college students pursue their degrees while living with depression.
USD addresses the mental health of students by providing resources in the form of therapy services and the Therapy Assistance Online program. The latter resource provides students with access to more than 150 short educational sessions, some of which are interactive, on various topics in relation to mental health.
Coping with mental health during the season looks different for many students. Junior, social work major, Emma Saucerman said, “The best way for me to combat seasonal depression is by spending quality time laughing with my friends.” Experts say it’s good to look for a treatment for depression or trauma treatment for youth as early as possible. Consult with a mental health counselor to get professional advice on which treatments suit you.
More information about campus resources related to students’ mental health can be found on the USD website. The state of South Dakota also provides constant access to a trained crisis specialist through a call or text to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.