If you have felt down and fatigued all week, you aren’t the only one. The third Monday in January is commonly referred to as Blue Monday, the day when a mysterious and misunderstood condition, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be at its peak.
A recent summary by RedArc, a British mental health support agency, said a 29-per-cent increase in the number of patient referrals for mental health conditions in January, compared to December, was found over a five-year time frame.
“I’ve seen it throughout the years. As soon as the holiday season’s over, reality kicks in yet again,” said retired psychologist William Tobon from Hamilton, Ont. “Major debts from Christmas shopping begin to pile up and vacations are over. January is a very mentally hard month for several people in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s cold and dark. With such an intense change in routine in such a short period, it impacts a person’s psychological state dramatically.”
Research by the Canadian Mental Health Association suggests two to three per cent of Ontarians are diagnosed with SAD and another 15 per cent experience symptoms. While the exact cause is unknown, researchers believe the condition may be related to the body’s internal clock, which regulates hormone production and temperature.
“On dull and gloomy winter days, people with the disorder may wake up and instantly feel fatigued or drowsy during the day,” said Madison McComb, a University of British Columbia graduate in psychology. “Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and behaviour. Through studies and research, serotonin levels have been linked to sunlight. People who live in northern climates are more susceptible to the disorder. As spring comes around and there are more hours of sunlight, the disorder seems to fade away.”
There may be hope for those suffering from SAD, reports a recent University of British Columbia study. New research found that light therapy is proven to be effective for those with the disorder. Sixty to 80 per cent of people found that light therapy provided instant relief and had an effect on them. The light’s purpose is to mimic natural sunlight rays, resulting in a chemical change in the body that boosts mood.
Libraries throughout Ontario have purchased therapy lights to help minimize the effects of the disorder. Waterloo Public Library is among those that have purchased the lights. Their use is free of charge and no reservation is required.
“It’s amazing to see a community come together to tackle mental disorders and address them,” said Taylor McLock, who frequently visits Waterloo Public Library. “Each day we tackle the stigma surrounded around mental disorders so that there will no longer be one. It touches my heart to see our community reaching out to those who are not well mentally because its okay to not be okay.”