Seasonal Depression At U-32

This article is written by Journalism student, Anna Stoner.

 

It’s no secret that seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects in Northern latitudes more substantially than in other places.  According to a Mayo Clinic piece on December 14, 2021, ‘SAD’ symptoms can include, but are not limited to, “Oversleeping, appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates, weight gain, and tiredness or low energy”.

 

 Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect students in school. “There’s some degree of me not wanting to do anything at all, no motivation to do assignments. There’s just an endless slog,” said Avery Cochran, a senior at U32. 

 

Early snowfall on campus on Thursday, November 9. (Anna Stoner/The Chronicle)

 

Seasonal depression makes itself more known in the winter-spring months in Vermont. “I definitely notice [it in the time] before February break and before April break,” Jade Walker, the middle school counselor. According to a paper from the National Library of Medicine, “All prospective population studies, except one, find seasonal variations in mood, depressive symptoms usually peaking in winter.”

 

Many people combat these effects by taking vitamin D supplements, as the sun doesn’t shine as often in the winter months in Vermont. “One thing we can all do is take vitamin D every day,” said Jamie Spector, our school’s social worker.  “An important thing to remember is for students, if you’re feeling particularly down to just first notice yourself and what’s going on…This partially could be worse because of the time of year we’re in.”

 

“What happens also is sleep patterns get thrown off, [and it] can really just mess up your whole sleep-wake system,” said Ellen Cooke, one of our high school counselors. Sleep rhythms can also be thrown out of the loop by the change in seasons. 

 

Ellen Cooke, one of our school counselors. (Anna Stoner/The Chronicle)

 

 November, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, is when snow starts to fall and the days start to have less light. Avery said, “I leave the house at 6:50 am to take the bus and it’s still dark outside, waiting for the bus. And then [after school] I’m walking home in the dark and I just don’t get outside when it’s light out, and [it] messes with my mood.”

 

Home life can affect the way you react to experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, too. Jade said, “The adults in your life are and that can really impact your experience … I remember this as being a kid too. It’s like you grow up in the house that you grew up in, and you kind of normalize what [your] experience is.” 

 

Technology certainly isn’t helping people at school affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, either. “I think the impact of technology and smartphones and the way we’re connected [with] so much stimulation and information, also ramps all of that up,” said Jamie. Jamie also recommends that people use the coping skills that they’ve developed for the ‘regular’ year during these bleak winter months, as well. 

 

Some of the coping skills Jamie mentioned were dancing, working out, listening to music, or really just getting outside. “If everyone’s distracted by their phones, they’re maybe not reminding each other [to] go outside and play in the snow,” said Jamie. After all, if those coping skills work during the summer or spring, why would they not work during the winter? 

 

In the same vein as coping skills, the lack of afterschool activities can also impact students. Jade mentioned that there is a lull of activity between the winter sports and spring sports starting, and it is especially apparent that kids aren’t their usual selves in those 2 weeks. Jade said, “They don’t have their regular outlets for activity, and they’re not inclined to seek them.”

 

There is some difficulty in having after-school activities in the winter months because of the lack of help to run the programs. Ellen helps with Nordic skiing during the winter, because she has the experience. “Sports [aren’t] for everybody, … other challenges also, is finding the help to [run a program].”

Breaks in a monotonous schedule can also remedy these feelings of dreariness, and the upcoming J-Term may offer a possible solution. “It’s basically like summer camp, … and you don’t have to go far because you can still catch the bus,” said Ellen. Agreeing with Ellen, Jade said, “Someone [could try] something new during J-term … and then it sparks a passion [for] something that they want to explore outside of school.”

 

Even simple after-school activities could be a proactive tool for bettering your mental fortitude in the winter months. “My dream is that the school is full, until like 4:30-5 o’clock every day [with] all kinds of activities,” said Jamie. Jamie has worked with students to bring some sort of activity to the school before, like the body positivity campaign last year. Jamie mentioned that if students ever want to do an after-school activity or awareness campaign, they should reach out to her at jspector@u32.org. 

 

But even with those layers of support, some students may still be distrusting of authority figures like a counselor or administrator. Avery said, “It makes it really hard to go to those people because you don’t know if they’re going to share with your parents … I can’t think of any adults that I don’t feel [like that with] off the top of my head.”

 

Students do have a plethora of resources here at school for mental health, like your counselor or the nursing staff. Some kids may not necessarily find comfort in those adults though. Jade said, “The more adults we can put around a kid’s inner circle, the more likely they are to find one of them that they can find support from.”

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