It’s that time of year. The days are shorter, with less sunlight reaching us every day. The weather in many parts of the country has become colder, keeping students indoors and inactive for several months. It’s not uncommon for children and adolescents to suffer from some depression related to the changing seasons in a typical year—but as many can attest, 2020 is not a typical year.
Seasonal depression can leave children and teens feeling sad or sluggish, with limited motivation for activities. If your students are still participating in in-school learning, chances are they leave for school while it’s still dark and return home after the sun has already gone down. If not, they’re likely spending the entire day inside with limited exposure to sunlight. This lack of daylight can impact a student’s mood, contributing to a darker disposition.
In more severe cases, students may be affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is an aptly named clinical disorder marked by a seasonal onset of depression symptoms that start during the fall and worsen as the days get shorter. Some symptoms include students feeling sad or irritable, unusual or extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate on schoolwork, and heightened sensitivity to feedback or perceived judgment, which often results in students withdrawing from friends and family. While SAD primarily affects adults, it can present in older children and adolescents.
There are several ways you can identify if one of your students is suffering from seasonal depression or it’s more severe counterpart, SAD. If you notice a student is frequently tired or disconnected from school, has disengaged from their peer group, or is exhibiting frequent irritability or moodiness, it might be time to have them evaluated by a mental health professional. You can also identify early warning signs using Gaggle Safety Management, which monitors students’ devices and apps for indicators that they may be struggling with their mental health.
If your students are struggling this winter, there are resources available. Psychotherapy is the best way to address students’ mental health needs. In therapy, students are provided with skills to manage their mental health in positive and constructive ways. One service is Gaggle Therapy, which matches students with licensed therapists for weekly video calls. Sessions are flexible and accessible, connecting mental health services with students who may not be able to access it otherwise. If your students are experiencing SAD, work with your school to get them the support they need.
Many adults who have been diagnosed with SAD can trace their symptoms back to childhood or adolescence. Early diagnosis can lead to effective intervention, saving them from decades of depressed feelings and disruption of their daily lives.
This uncertain year, depression may be more extreme for vulnerable individuals. Identify their struggles early, and get them the help they need. For both of those endeavors, Gaggle can help.
For students needing more immediate help, there are a number of call and text lines open 24/7 to assist them. These include:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727)
- Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
- Anti-Violence Project Hotline: 212-714-1141
Want to learn more about how Gaggle Therapy can connect your students with mental health professionals? Register for our upcoming webinar on Thursday, December 10 at 3:00 PM ET. During this 30-minute event, you’ll learn how Gaggle Therapy works, what an implementation looks like, and where to find funding sources to help bring this new service to your district.