For many people, the New Year marks a celebration that comes with a mindset of joy confidence and a fresh “head of steam.”
But winter can also be a time of difficulty for many people in terms of mental health.
At Christmas, there are many reminders to come together in a spirit of joy and hope. These same reminders may leave people feeling sad, alone or hopeless.
Those feelings can range from the winter blues to clinical depression. There are many causes, from the loss of someone special to circumstances that seem hopeless, the after effects of abuse or trauma or a chemical imbalance in the brain.
For some people the lack of sunlight is hard to deal with and the long winter days can be a hard time. People in northern climates can also be affected by a lack of vitamin D. This deficiency can cause symptoms such as mood changes, exhaustion or lack of energy. Supplementing that vitamin can remedy the problem.
When depression is ongoing and severe, there’s no simple solution. It’s time to get help. Symptoms may include persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, pessimism and hopelessness; fatigue that leads to sleeping more, or a reduction in the amount or quality of sleep a person gets. Other signs include overeating or a lack of appetite, digestive problems or other physical symptoms, along with substance abuse including alcohol. Many who face depression lose interest in things they once enjoyed. Thoughts of suicide can accompany depression and should be taken seriously with reaching out for help immediately.
If this describes you, know that help is available.
Midwestern folks like us may feel the old-fashioned stigma that we, as health care professionals, try to remove. Mental health conditions are as serious as any cancer, broken bone or long-lasting infection. Without treatment, these illnesses can also become worse.
Helping one another is not just something we do when driveways are full of snow. Helping someone – or getting help – can be as simple as starting a conversation. While most of us are not professionally trained in the art and science of counseling, we can be there for others. Ask your family doctor or primary care provider about helpful resources in our area.
This year, especially, has been rough for the farmers in and around our community. Avera now offers a Farmer’s Stress Hotline where you can talk to a skilled, compassionate mental health professional. The free, 24/7 call is confidential and you can call 1-800-691-4336 to use it.
Winter’s cruel winds and bitter chills are only temporary. The cold isolation of depression can go on for years. If this sounds familiar, please reach out for help. If it describes someone you love, please talk to them, offer to help and help them get the care they need.