How Can You Support Employees with Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Many people experience a dip in their mood when the seasons change. However, for 5% of the working population, this low point slides deeper into sadness and even depression, classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Though the Mayo Clinic acknowledges that the specific cause of SAD is still unknown, they suggest that several factors may play a role in the connection between seasons and mental health. One of the significant contributors is the lack of sunlight.
As your body is exposed to less daylight during the winter months, your circadian rhythm changes, and a critical brain chemical called serotonin declines. This neurotransmission chemical regulates and affects your mood. There is also a decline in melatonin levels which can disrupt sleep patterns. As these levels drop, they can trigger symptoms of depression.
SAD is diagnosed more often in women than men and is reported most frequently in younger adults. Those suffering from SAD experience many of the same symptoms associated with major depression, including:
- Difficulty sleeping or waking up in the morning
- Decreased energy levels or lethargy
- Low concentration levels
- Change in appetite or weight gain
Understanding the impact and symptoms can only offer so much reassurance to an employee struggling to push through a challenging time, particularly if those symptoms interfere with their daily lives and work.
So, how can you support your staff with conditions like SAD or other mental health challenges?
Many employers and insurers cover mental health treatment. Still, Medical Health America reports that one in five people who experience anxiety and depression are not getting the professional care they need. Therefore, making employees aware of the services and benefits available to them, for both acute and chronic bouts with mental health conditions, is critical to ensuring the well-being of your team.
Caring for conditions such as SAD can be simple and effective long-term, so long as the patient is consistent with their treatment plan. For example, light therapy and antidepressant medication can be successful in treating SAD and nonseasonal depression.
Support from within the company can also go a long way to help employees care for their mental health. Some examples include:
- Encouraging employees to spend time outdoors
- Increasing office natural and bright light
- Providing healthy outlets for connection and movement
- Offering flexible work hours
- Prompting dialogue about the importance of mental and emotional health
If you or one of your employees is experiencing seasonal or chronic depression symptoms, reach out to connect with immediate, free national resources. In addition, follow up with your HR department to discuss your health benefits or your insurance carrier to secure the proper diagnosis and care that you may need.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline | Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line | Text “HELLO” to 741741
Veterans Crisis Line | Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255
Disaster Distress Helpline | Call or text 1-800-985-5990