GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — If you've been feeling down this winter, you may be battling seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
"SAD is a type of depression that usually starts around the fall and then will last until symptoms kind of clearing up in the spring," said Elizza LeJeune, a clinical social worker at Pine Rest. "It affects about 20 to 40 percent of Michiganders, because, as you know, we get a lot of really harsh winters a lot of snow; it's very dark."
Dealing with SAD during the pandemic may be causing additional distress.
"There's a high rate of suicidality increasing at the time, so a lot of people feeling really hopeless, as well as those depression symptoms kind of compounding, like, is it worth it to continue to live?" explained LeJeune. "I think with the pressures of COVID and all the anxieties on top of that have really kind of made for a storm."
LeJeune said typical advice for how to cope with SAD has also been affected by the pandemic.
"A lot of the recommendations would be getting out, being with friends, being with family," she said. "Due to the pandemic, that is highly not the recommendation unless you can safely do that with masks and social distancing."
LeJeune recommends talk therapy (talking with friends or a therapist about your stressors), light therapy to brighten your mood, and medication like anti-depressants.
And finally, trying to embrace the winter season is important to battling SAD.
"Really taking in the beauty of each season as you can, enjoying being home by the fire, something safe that you can do bundled up, hot cocoa, just really enjoying the season," suggested LeJeune. "Doing virtual visits, getting up and moving, being active, taking your vitamin D, talking to your doctor. Enjoying what you can with the snowfall. It's really pretty when you don't have to shovel it ... but if you're really feeling down, hopeless, suicidal, life is not worth living, reach out. Someone here wants you alive."
If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available at Pine Rest. Call 800-678-5500 or visit the website here.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255.