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Despite seasonal depression affecting millions, solutions exist

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Eileen Marsal Koch is no stranger to a seasonal disorder that affects millions of people every year. Despite the negative effects that seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression places upon people, Koch said there are solutions.

“Light therapy is actually an evidence-based treatment for depression and seasonal affective disorder,” Koch, a senior staff counselor at Ohio University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, said.

Light therapy is a method that can be used in combating seasonal depression. This solution is as simple as placing a small light on your desk for about 20 minutes in the morning.

“I always make sure I tell clients, they don’t want to be using it later in the day because it actually works on the circadian rhythms in your brain that affect sleep and wake cycles,” Koch said.

Every fall, the cold and longer hours of darkness are inevitable in the state of Ohio. Even though these winter conditions are always predictable, mental health awareness was commonly neglected.

“One of the biggest problems that I saw in the Russ College was that we don’t really talk about mental health, ever,” Emily McCarthy, a student senator for the Russ College of Engineering, said.

McCarthy said she realizes it’s hard to feel supported when no effort is made to talk about mental health and overall well-being.

In an effort to bring more awareness to mental health and to combat seasonal depression before the season fully changes, McCarthy hosted a wellness week.

“I just hope that this helps people decompress after midterms,” McCarthy said. “I know a couple of people actually came in directly after a midterm. So I hope that it was helpful.”

From journaling to plant potting and even a game night, each day was designed to help students destress, with the goal of minimizing potential seasonal depression traits.

“I hope it helps mostly with concentrating towards school and also with my life, taking more of self-care when it comes to classes,” Katie Clarke, a Russ College of Engineering and Technology ambassador, said. “I feel like in engineering, a lot of us are work, work, work and we never take the time to just kick back.”

Achieving good mental health and ultimately decreasing the risk of seasonal depression takes more than just attending relaxed events. Communicating your feelings and thoughts with others always helps, Koch said.

“If things get really bad, you know, making sure they reach out CPS has a 24-hour phone line that’s available,” she said. “Students can call, you know, after hours and on the weekends.”