Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized as a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons, typically tied to the start of fall and persisting into the winter months. We know that depressive disorders don’t take holidays and this time of year can be stressful. For individuals who suffer from or are at risk for depression, though, the impact of holiday stresses and pressures can be much more severe than the momentary frustrations that almost everyone experiences. Typical symptoms of SAD, sometimes referred to as winter depression, may include the following (Mayo Clinic):
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- A lack of energy
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Oversleeping or having problems with sleeping
- Social withdrawal
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Substance abuse
Recently, more people are willing to engage in more meaningful conversations regarding mental health, but that has not always been the case. Many of the same symptoms listed above are commonly associated with warning signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior, the second leading cause of death for ages 10 – 24. The Jason Foundation, a nationally recognized leader in youth suicide awareness and prevention, has developed a program designed to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and suicide. #TNWontBeSilent is an awareness campaign in Tennessee to raise the conversation on suicide prevention and mental illness, allowing open conversation regarding these serious subjects. Visit www.tennesseewontbesilent.com to learn how you can become involved and make a difference within your community. Creating an environment where people of all ages feel comfortable to talk about their struggles is an important step in preventing unnecessary tragedies.
Contrary to a prevalent myth, suicide rates do not peak during the holiday season. However, depressed individuals are hardly immune from either depressive episodes or suicidal ideation during this time. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression and/or thinking about suicide, get help now. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), is a free resource that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for anyone who is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.