To the editor:
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression which is characterized by shifts in mood that are related to the changes in the seasons. While SAD usually brings to mind the winter months with their long, cold days and extended periods of darkness, some people can experience SAD during the summer months.
SAD may present a bit differently depending on the time of year. According to The Mayo Clinic, winter SAD might look more like “hibernating,” so sleeping and eating more than usual, gaining weight and withdrawing from usual social activities.
Summer SAD can appear quite the opposite with symptoms including insomnia, appetite loss, weight loss, restlessness and anxiety. It is important to note that people who struggle with major depression or bipolar disorder may be particularly susceptible to seasonal changes and may experience worsening symptoms.
Just as it is a myth that SAD only occurs in winter, it is a myth that suicide rates peak in the holiday season. In fact, according to the CDC’s Fatal Injury Trends for 2021, suicide rates began rising in May and were highest in August. It is easy to imagine summer as a happy time full of warmth, fun and vacations, and there is no doubt that many people feel their best at this time of year.
However, with schools out of session and families off their guard for signals that their loved ones may be in crisis, many young people show signs of suicidal ideation that are overlooked. Many of the same symptoms of SAD are commonly associated with warning signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Since suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10-24 and suicide rates rise during the summer months, it is vital to be on the lookout for those around you who may be experiencing difficulties with their mental health.
The Jason Foundation, a nationally recognized leader in youth suicide awareness and prevention, provides numerous resources outlining the signs of concern for suicide as well as ways to help friends and loved ones when they show these signs. Additionally, The Jason Foundation strives to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. They have developed an awareness campaign called #IWONTBESILENT to encourage these sorts of conversations so no one feels they have to hide away painful feelings.
Creating an environment of openness where people of all ages feel comfortable confiding in others about their struggles helps prevent unnecessary tragedies. Visit www.iwontbesilent.com to learn how you can get involved and make a difference in your community.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or thinking about suicide, there is help available to you. The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling or texting 988. Trained mental health professionals are available to talk with you and provide you with the resources you need.
-Falon Mansfield, division director, The Jason Foundation