As gloomy winter weather begins, kids and young adults may feel the effects of the changing seasons. While some may have the “winter blues,” others may experience Season Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression exacerbated by the lack of sunlight enjoyed during the spring and summer months.

According to Psychology Today, roughly 10 million Americans experience SAD each year, with young women four times more likely to have this mental health condition. Common symptoms include oversleeping, loss of interest in activities, lack of energy, sleeping issues and body weight fluctuation. For those who experience more severe symptoms, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts can occur as well.

However, with support from trusted doctors, friends and family, those with SAD can find effective treatments to help ease these challenges.

Recognizing the Warning Signs and Supporting Those with SAD

Noticing your child isn’t as enthusiastic about school or their favorite holiday traditions for several weeks? Do they mention experiencing depression or feeling low energy? Gently begin a conversation by asking how they are feeling and if the start of fall and winter has impacted them every day. If they mention that they are feeling overly tired or aren’t enjoying daily life like they used to, these can be some common indicators of SAD.

If you are concerned, validate the child’s experience and encourage them to talk to a trusted counselor or doctor to help them get on the right path to treatment. By simply listening and having an open dialogue, those who experience SAD can feel heard and supported as they work through these challenging symptoms.

Strategies to Keep The Winter Blues Away

To support loved ones experiencing seasonal depression, these simple healthy mental habits can help them stay persistent through these challenges.

  • Take a walk or exercise outside for at least 30 minutes each day, especially when the sun is out.
  • Set up a work/study station near windows or areas with natural sunlight.
  • Schedule fun seasonal activities, giving everyone something fun to look forward to.
  • Keep a journal to track energy and mood changes daily.
  • Use a lightbox each day to supplement the missing sunlight.
  • With approval from a doctor, explore vitamin supplements or medication options.

How Erika’s Lighthouse Can Help

Erika’s Lighthouse offers a range of resources to help you kickstart these important conversations if you know or suspect a loved one is experiencing SAD. Visit our Family Engagement portal to find helpful discussion guides, handouts and a parent handbook to help you prepare and navigate your loved one’s experience.