Feeling ‘SAD’

SRU navigates seasonal affective disorder

Published by Annabelle Chipps, Date: November 27, 2023
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Slippery Rock averages 43.5 inches of rain per year, compared to the national average of 30 inches, according to worldclimate.com. While the area has many sunny days throughout the year, it has even more that are cloudy, rainy or snowy. 

Seasonal depression affects teens and adults all across America. It is formally known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and the symptoms align heavily with clinical depression. 

The difference between the two disorders is that people with SAD are directly affected by the weather. Typically, this means they are depressed in the fall and winter months, and symptoms improve during spring and summer. 

“SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in winter,” a psychiatry.org article said. “As seasons change, people experience a shift in their biological internal clock or circadian rhythm that can cause them to be out of step with their daily schedule.”

The article also said that SAD lasts for about 40% of the year and affects around 5% of U.S. adults. 

The Rocket surveyed seven SRU students who claim to hold a SAD diagnosis and 11 who suspect they have the disorder. The survey link was posted to The Rocket’s social media and sent out to students in the English department. 

When asked how weather affects mood, senior Jenna Lubinski said, “If it is sunny out I feel productive and happy, but when it is dark I am tired.”

Because Slippery Rock is only about an hour and a half south of Lake Erie and is near other bodies of water like Lake Arthur, winters are cold with lots of snowfall. 

I’m from the south and it’s a lot sunnier there…Slippery Rock winters send me into vitamin D deficiency every year which drastically changes my mood,” a survey participant said. 

Some participants reported being affected more by cloudy skies, and others claimed that the cold has a greater effect. 

When asked about the weather in Slippery Rock specifically, respondents said, “The cold definitely makes it harder to get by mentally,” and “I just hate functioning in the cold.”

Students also described their (suspected) SAD symptoms in the survey. They claimed it leads to a lack of motivation, general sadness, difficulty completing assignments and isolation from peers, among other things. 

However, 12 students reported there are ways to lessen symptoms and improve mood during colder months. Time with family and friends, exercise, medication and self-care were listed. 

“Also, when [professors] are lenient with deadlines this time of year I’m so appreciative,” one student said. 

The school also supports students in other more formal ways. The Student Counseling Center provides individualized therapy sessions and group counseling. There are also disability accommodations available. 

To set up an appointment with the counseling center, students can call 724-738-2034 or email scc@sru.edu. They also provide walk-in hours Monday-Friday from 12-3 p.m. 

If students are experiencing a mental health emergency due to SAD or otherwise, they can contact the Butler County Crisis line at 1-844-427-4747 or dial 988.

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