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Pandemic Depression Is About to Collide With Seasonal Depression. Make a Plan, Experts Say.

The American Psychological Association has seen a sharp increase in suicidal ideation, particularly among young adults, during the pandemic, according to Vaile Wright, senior director of health-care innovation.

But the coming winter months will probably complicate how people are experiencing depression, whether they also suffer from SAD or not, experts say.

Although only a small percentage of people typically report seasonal depression (most estimates put it at 6 percent of the U.S. population for severe symptoms and 14 percent for mild symptoms), Wright says she wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another increase in depressive symptoms among the population in general as the cold weather compounds social isolation.

Lisa Carlson, president of the American Public Health Association, agrees. According to Carlson, seasonal depression is more common in people who have a history of depression.

Now is the time for people who fear that they may experience symptoms of depression or that their depression may worsen during winter months to make a plan. And it’s an especially crucial time, because research has found that the transition from daylight saving time to standard time, or shifting the clocks backward, which happens Nov. 1, has been associated with a rise in depressive episodes.

Here are some tips from both providers and people who have experienced depression and seasonal depression.

Line up things that help: Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health says this can include ensuring you have a steady supply of medication in case it becomes harder to get out, having a therapist lined up and scheduling weekly calls with loved ones.

Know your triggers: Be aware of what might trigger a depressive episode.  Write down in advance the warning signs of when depression may be deepening — for example, when you stop taking care of yourself or your home.

Get a light box or SAD lamp: These are lamps specifically created to mimic outdoor light. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says people with SAD should use one for a couple of hours in the morning during the winter.

Figure out ways to stay connected: Wright says the instinct of some people with depressive symptoms may be to isolate, but she advises fighting against the urge, especially now, when isolating is easier to do.

Gordon says talking to someone else about your feelings can also help you gauge whether you’re just feeling off or whether there’s something more serious going on. “For people who are thinking of harming themselves, talking to someone really helps,” he says.

Take advantage of online therapy:  Telehealth, or virtual health care, is revolutionizing mental health care and making it more accessible, Carlson says. It can also make therapy a little less daunting for new patients, because it can be accessed directly from home.

Excerpted from “Pandemic Depression Is About to Collide With Seasonal Depression. Make a Plan, Experts Say.” in The Washington Post. Read the full article for more details on the recommendations above.

Source: The Washington Post | Pandemic Depression Is About to Collide With Seasonal Depression. Make a Plan, Experts Say, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/seasonal-depression-covid-help/2020/10/26/5d93bbe2-1479-11eb-ba42-ec6a580836ed_story.html | © 2020 The Washington Post

A screening can help you determine if you or someone you care about should contact a mental health professional. CHC teletherapy services are available now.  Call or email our Care Managers at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org to set up a free 30-minute consultation appointment.

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