Some people experience happiness in waves, or in this case, seasons. With daylight hours diminishing and cold winter nights ahead, I’d like to offer insight into seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or what we like to refer to as, “the winter blues.” You might be wondering, why should this be important to me? SAD impacts millions of Americans, many of which do not know they experience this type of depression. In many cases, SAD develops in young adulthood and could very well be experienced by the students in your classroom. You may also experience this as well, and although it may feel like your students and children are the focus of all your worries, YOUR mental health matters too.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; 2022), SAD is a type of depression that occurs when the fall season ends and winter season begins, known as the winter-pattern. Although less common, some people experience SAD during the spring and summer seasons as well, known as the summer-pattern. Many of the symptoms of SAD align with that of major depression and can largely influence energy levels, appetite, quality of sleep, irritability, lack of focus, suicidal ideation, feeling sluggish, hopeless, or worthless, a lack of interest in the things you once enjoyed, and so on (NIMH, 2022). Additional symptoms that are commonly seen in winter-pattern SAD, are: oversleeping, overeating, social withdrawal, and weight gain (NIMH, 2022). If you, your children, or your students are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to seek support. An issue that starts out small and manageable can easily grow and become problematic. 

Speaking out when you are struggling with your mental health takes an abundance of strength. You may struggle with feeling like vulnerability is a sign of weakness, but as a mental health counselor in training myself and someone who also experienced mental illness, I am here to tell you that it is the complete opposite. Common treatments for SAD are psychotherapy, antidepressant medication, light therapy, and vitamin D. The first step when it comes to managing your mental health, is talking to someone about it. You can start with a friend, a teacher, a parent, or a professional. If you do choose to seek therapy, know that there isn’t a one-treatment fits-all approach when it comes to mental health, so please reach out to your health care provider to determine what approach is best fitted for your needs and goals. 

It is okay to talk about these concerns. A common misconception is that asking students about depression or suicidal ideation will make someone more depressed or suicidal. In fact, by asking someone about their mental health and expressing your concern, you will have a greater chance at getting them the support they need. Without inquiring about these thoughts, communication will be limited, and issues can go unnoticed and untreated. However, it is very important to manage conversations about depression and suicide carefully. It is important to approach this conversation without judgement and a willingness to listen. It is especially important to encourage this person to seek counseling services with a professional who is trained to help in these situations, or to contact emergency services if you or someone else is in imminent danger.

Important Notice

This article does not serve as medical advice or an avenue for diagnosing SAD or depression. Please consult with your doctor or appropriate individuals if you have any concerns about your mental health or the mental health of others.


“Seasonal Affective Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and 

Human Services, 2022, 

Hannah Shevitz