JOPLIN, Mo. — In the Four States, we get to enjoy all 4 seasons in a year.
But for some people, the Winter and Summer months mean a particular type of depression will come creeping back in.
In the newest part of our series The Suicide Crisis: Prevention, Information, and Awareness, learn why some are impacted by the seasons.
Gerrie-Ellen Johnston wasn’t sure why – for years – she just wasn’t the same person when Winter-time came around.
“I’d be like ‘I don’t know what’s happening.’ I started crying the other day for nothing,” said Johnston.
Her family practitioner knew it was more than just the Winter blues.
“And she said, oh that’s Seasonal Affective Disorder. And I said, what?”
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a subset of depression that’s limited to a season.
“My world is very brightly colored, but with Seasonal Affective Disorder it’s like they become muted.”
Dr. Jeffrey Bradley, with Freeman Health System says, “10 million people nation-wide suffer from SAD — most commonly during, and leading into, the winter.”
Dr. Jeffrey Bradley, Medical Director Psychiatry Freeman Health System & Ozark Center, said, “We find that the time from summer to Winter, the Fall, is the most stressful time for the mind and body.”
For others, it’s actually the Summer-time where symptoms of SAD show up.
“Seriously affecting social life, seriously affecting work life, suicidal thinking, affecting physical health like vibrancy and energy levels.”
Talk therapy and medication are common forms of treatment, though Dr. Bradley recommends making life-style changes too.
“Proper diet, seeking out human connection, crying, laughing as often as possible.”
“Even though you might not feel like going to those events, go. Go, you’ll perk up,” said Johnston.
The environment you create for yourself during those seasons can make a big difference.
“Folks with seasonal affective disorder have low levels of Vitamin D and they have excess levels of melatonin,” Bradley.
Vitamin D supplements, a light box, and natural sunlight are also proven to help.
Something Johnston can personally attest to in managing her disorder.
“Take advantage of the sunny days, I took down most of the curtains in my house. And enjoy just looking out the windows,” said Johnson.
And making sure you see your doctor or therapist again if the feelings don’t seem to go away when the season changes again.
“If you have a friend or relative that you think might have it, or any depression, you need to watch that and get them the help that they need. Because it’s treatable.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health and needs someone to talk to, we urge you to call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-talk.
We also have more resources for you just click on the news tab and then the suicide crisis link.