Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, often starts in the fall months and lasts through the winter. It is more common than you think; there are about 3 million cases per year in the U.S. Some symptoms include social withdrawal, fatigue, appetite changes, mood swings and changes in sleep patterns.
There are ways to treat seasonal depression such as therapy, counseling or medication. Sometimes, self-care and talking to a friend can help just as well.
Forrest Seymour, Assistant Director of Emotional Health Programming and Outreach, has been a counselor here at Keene State College for about 12 years. He says the demand for the counseling center has gone up since last year, but normally there is a slight increase during the winter months. However, it is sometimes related to the stress that comes with the end of the semester.
“There’s lots of messages out there that you just have to ‘suck it up’ or ‘it’s not really a problem.’ While that might work for some people, there are others who might need some form of treatment,” said Seymour.
His advice for people experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder is to seek out help, even though it may be difficult. “One of the challenges about any kind of depressive experience is the nature of being depressed; you are less inclined to go out and ask for help”.
Seymour says if a friend is experiencing seasonal depression, it is important to support them and encourage them to seek out help. Offer to go with them when they talk to somebody about it, and let them know this is normal.
“My experience is when people reach out, it makes a difference, and they feel better — often very quickly,” said Seymour.
The counseling center is available to students on campus who may need help or just want to talk.
Freshman MacKenzie Wright plans on joining the Active Minds club on campus after being involved in the National Alliance for Mental Illness for two years in high school. The group would get together with people with mental illnesses to talk about it, and start a conversation. She also organized an event at her high school where a guest speaker came to talk about depression.
When talking about seasonal depression, Wright said, “You need to have outlets to go to, especially being at college away from your family. It needs to be more of a known topic and brought to attention so people know how to get help”.
Wright said friends are easier to talk to rather than going to a counselor but, “definitely try to see a counselor, they aren’t going to lecture you. They are going to listen and give you good advice”.
Health student educator Tiffany Mathews is a coordinator of wellness education and works with many student organizations and academic departments on campus. She focuses on residential life and the wellness programs hosted in residence halls. She also does a lot through Live Well KSC, which addresses student wellness and educates staff, students and faculty on the nine dimensions of wellness. Mathews says there are so many resources available to students such as faculty, friends, family, residential life, the counseling center and student affairs.
Her advice for students experiencing any health issue including seasonal depression would be self-care.
“As a health educator, I would recommend getting involved, do things you enjoy and communicate with friends and family,” said Mathews.
Haleigh Patch can be reached at