Beating the winter blues

Many students’ moods set with the sun during dark winter days and the UAA Student Health Center doesn’t take that change lightly.

At least 10 percent of college students are affected by depression and in 1998, suicide was the second highest cause of death on college campuses, said Carol Montgomery, a SHC advanced nurse practitioner.

“Depression is a lot more common than people realize,” she said.

The SHC hosted the “Feeling Good: Preventing the Campus Blues” seminar last Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. The seminar was part of the SHC’s Wednesday Health Education Program and coincided with last Thursday’s National Depression Screening Day.

There is a distinction between depression and the winter blues, Montgomery said. Depression is a physical and emotional disease that persists for longer periods of time and requires medication and/or psychotherapy, whereas the blues are temporary and normal reactions to circumstances that can be solved through self-help, a good listener or enough time to heal, she said.

Depression is considered one of the most treatable diseases and uses both medication and psychotherapy or counselling as treatments. Studies show that a combination of both medication and psychotherapy or counselling is the most effective treatment of depression, Montgomery said.

Therapy’s cognitive-behavioral approach can be very helpful, she said.

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“Changing the way you’re thinking can change the way you feel,” Montgomery said.

The approach is laid out in an A-B-C step format that shows how people process information. The ‘A’ step corresponds to an activating event, such as criticism about work. The ‘B’ step corresponds to the belief that the individual has about that event. The ‘C’ step corresponds to the consequences of an individual acting on a given belief.

Tom Gardner, a finance student who attended the lecture, asked whether nations in colder climates had higher rates of depression. Montgomery said that Seasonal Affective Disorder and suicide rates are higher in northern locations, including Alaska .

 

Light boxes, which can help treat SAD, are available at SHC for a free trial period. The SHC is located in the Business Education Building Room 120 and is open Monday-Friday 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and closed Wednesdays 1:45-3:00 p.m. Students may call 786-4040 to schedule appointments for free depression-screenings or use the SHC’s online resources at www.studenthealth.uaa.alaska.edu

Major symptoms of depression-

  • Sad mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Agitation, irritability,
  • recurrent thoughts of suicide
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Inappropriate guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating,
  • Tiredness or lack of energy,
  • Loneliness even in social settings
  • Self-isolation
  • Neglecting appearance
  • Crying and hostility