Your mental health in the winter months
Story by Cicely Foley / Photo by Nina Marcus
Health and well being are a big part of everyday life, and mental health is no exception. According to JM counselor Ms. Morgan, mental health is, “being able to deal with whatever comes your way and taking life’s ups and downs.” Just like physical health, mental health issues can arise.
These issues can come from genetics and environment. One student at Judge described what many others feel, “The stress of school work on top of social aspects can lead many students to struggle every day in our community.” Many students experience some sort of mental health issue.
Anxiety, stress, depression are just a few.
Photo by Alexis DeTemple
The changing of the seasons has a strong effect on mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) touches many people in the winter months due to the lack of sunlight and vitamin D. When Serotonin levels decrease, changes in appetite and sleeping occur; this drop can also trigger depression.
One effective way to cope with SAD is phototherapy, or light therapy. "Happy lights” mimic natural light for thirty minutes a day, and emit the sun that is missing in the darker months.
A Judge student who uses phototherapy said, “personally, in the winter when it gets dark at 5:00 PM, I struggle to feel motivated to do anything, and I am in a depressive state. This light gives me more energy and makes me feel happier.”
People living in Utah are at an especially high risk of developing mental health disorders. Utah is ranked 5th highest nationally in teen suicides. Last year 44 teens between the ages of 10-to-17 took their own lives, a 33% increase from 2016.
On January 17, 2018, Governor Herbert addressed this horrifying statistic and pledged to assemble a task force to “help develop priorities, then report on effective programs, tools and methods in youth suicide prevention in Utah.” The team has four weeks to come up with solutions in order to present ideas to lawmakers before the General Session ends for 2018.
Dealing with these issues can feel difficult and lonely, but nobody has to face it alone. Ms. Morgan advises, “think about the foundation: sleep, nutrition and staying hydrated.” If the basic needs like these aren’t met, then other aspects cannot be as proficient.
“Sometimes it is overwhelming to look far into the future and plan what will happen next. If you take the time to focus on yourself in the moment, you can learn more about what you need to feel better.” suggests an anonymous student.
And, if you notice someone struggling, talk to them and see if they want help. Having a support system is very important. Make sure to take care of yourself and others!