Recently CVS Health announced about launching new program, – Here 4 U. This program is meant to be a helpful hand for people, who struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression that kicks in when days grow shorter and temperatures fall.
“Biologically and chemically, people have a reaction to weather changes and darkness, and it’s a time when we have more isolation,” says Cara McNulty, DPA, President of Behavioral Health and EAP at Aetna. “The physical distancing and closures as a result of the pandemic make seasonal affective disorder, especially this year, something really important to pay attention to. We’re pretty good at acknowledging grief and loss when a loved one passes, but we don’t often acknowledge grief and loss around things like there wasn’t college graduation, or you’re starting high school online and you’re not meeting friends.”
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the “winter blues,” is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Seasonal depression typically occurs when the seasons change and most symptoms begin in the fall and continue into the winter months. However, seasonal depression can occur in the summer or spring, although this is less common.
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
- Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
- People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
- Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
Since seasonal depression has a predictable pattern of recurrence, preventative measures may help to reduce symptoms. Some forms of prevention that can help include beginning light therapy in the early fall before the onset of symptoms, exercising more, increasing the amount of light at home, meditation and other stress management techniques, spending more time outside, and visiting climates that have more sun.
Here 4 U
Here 4 U, a program that offers virtual peer support sessions for young adults from 18-24 to help them manage their mental health amid the current challenges. A wider rollout is planned in 2021. McNulty says that capability of recognizing symptoms is very important. “You feel blue; you have less energy. Some people say, ‘I just feel foggy; my thoughts aren’t clear.’”
Measures to treat or prevent SAD include exercising, getting enough rest and eating healthy foods. Getting outside in sunlight or using an indoor light box that provides 10,000 lux of light can also help. A vitamin D supplement can also be beneficial, especially for women.
“Taking time for things like thanking other people or volunteering absolutely has a positive effect on our own mental well-being. Kindness is an unbelievable elixir. Things have been tough already this year and our resiliency levels are low,” McNulty says. “It’s important that we stop and say, ‘I’m not going to just try to muscle through this. I’m going to seek care’ — and to understand that care is there.”