When daylight hours are shorter during the long and cold winter, many students experience seasonal depression.
Research from American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment shows that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can hurt academic performance, and cause stress.
“The depression actually happened every winter since I was a teenager,” says Sophie Hoang, an international marketing student who has suffered from SAD.
“It affects my academic performance to some extent. I would skip classes and leave assignments till the day of the deadline, or even worse, not doing it all together,” she said in an interview.
“That winter I skipped nearly 75 per cent of classes and in the end I was just one per cent close to failing the six courses that I took. My GPA went from 3.9 down to 3.5 just after that semester.”
Hoang is just one of many college students affected by a type of depression.
Eight out of 10 students at SAIT interviewed said that they do not feel motivated to study in winter term.
“I slept more than 15 hours a day, avoided any human interaction and the majority of the time I had suicidal thoughts,” said Briana Duong, a SAIT architecture technology student.
“I binge ate as well. I cannot begin to measure the amount of food I ate in a day during that period.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, many college students struggle with depression and don’t seek help.
Some people said that they did not know where to get help.
They believe that treatment will not work on them and they think their mental state is nothing out of the ordinary.
Others worry about being judged or being made to feel weak if they seek mental health care.
“I don’t think I did anything to overcome it,” said Hoang.
“I did try consulting my psychiatrist though, and she suggested that I needed to meditate if possible.
“You know, when you’re that depressed, you can’t really think of anything. Her suggestions didn’t help at all,” she said.
“At that point, I didn’t even want to overcome it, I just wanted to give up and die. However, the depression was slowly shrinking along with the ending of the winter.”
Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, a psychiatrist, said that exercise during the brightest part of the day and adding more light to your dorm or apartment may help students overcome winter depression.
“I started going to the gym, eating properly and taking vitamin D,” said Duong.
“It was really hard at first but it enhanced my mood day after day.”
According to Mental Health America, some forms of prevention of SAD include exercising more, increasing the amount of light at home, meditation and other stress management techniques, spending more time outside, and visiting climates that have more sun.