Combatting SAD on campus

Rachel Duthie

Kent State freshman human and developmental studies major Hayley Thompson couldn’t help but notice how anxious she was this December, a feeling that perplexed her so much she scheduled a counseling appointment at Kent State’s University Health Services.

“After talking (with someone), I found out that I was angrier in the winter, and that Christmas, to me, wasn’t as fun as people made it out to be,” Thompson said. “She then diagnosed me with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).”

Thompson is one of 10 million Americans who will experience the effects of SAD this upcoming winter, according to a 2013 report from Kent State.

SAD is a type of depression linked to changes in the season, most commonly during the winter months. People who are affected by SAD commonly experience major depressive symptoms, like moodiness and low energy, once the weather is colder and exposes less sun, according to research on the Mayo Clinic.

Kent State’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is raising awareness for SAD in a month-long social media campaign — the first time the department as addressed depression issues in its programming.

“College is super hard — You have to uproot yourself to make a commitment for four years,” said Avery Danage Jr., special assistant to the Office of the DEI Vice President. “Along with finals, missing home and other stresses, it’s easy to forget about the depression. Students don’t know it’s an important issue that needs help.”

The disorder is often undermined as a simple case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk, and is therefore often left untreated.

“The biggest misconception people have that it’s short-term depression,”Thompson said. “In fact, I would say it’s worse than regular depression. It’s during the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ and being sad about so many happy people makes me feel more alone.”

“(SAD) is something that can often get lost in the hustle and bustle, and it is hugely affecting students not just at our school, but at every university,” Danage said. “This problem is important and shouldn’t be ignored.”

The DEI took to Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness of SAD, including educational materials outlining signs and symptoms for the disease.

Also unique to the campaign is its student interactivity. The DEI works closely with University Stewards, a group of faculty and staff who serve as points of resource for students.

Stewards will often serve as listeners to student’s problems, no matter how big or small, before providing resources for help. According to Danage, they are meant to serve as a “best friend” in times where a student may feel like they have no one else.

Danage said the response to the campaign was “amazing” for the department, as students were finally having a positive conversation about the not-so-fun topic.

“We are all humans (and) we are affected by so much (with) certain situations and certain perspectives of the world,” Danage said. “So really what we’re trying to do is paint the picture of difference and show no part is no greater than another. But they are all intricate to the whole design.”

Rachel Duthie is a features correspondent, contact her at [email protected].