Seasonal depression increases Counseling Services workload

Between holiday stress, the weather and finals, many students find themselves feeling down or even depressed towards the end of the semester.

Lynn Wilson, Director of Counseling Services, said this feeling isn’t unusual. Rather, she said they see a large increase in the number of students making appointments with them in late fall and throughout the winter.

“Students will have difficulties with stress management early in the semester,” Wilson said, “and that builds up from those other external factors.”

Wilson said the difficulty managing stress and dealing with depression begins as the workload increases and the weather gets worse, but it all amounts to feelings becoming greater than what students were dealing with throughout the year.

The number of students dealing with this shows in the increase of the number of appointments the Counseling Services makes.

In mid-September, a regular week would have between 90 and 100 appointments. Since November, the number of appointments per week has been closer to 200.

Wilson said commonly, people who are depressed will feel worse or it will become more noticeable in the winter.

Students might feel increased hopelessness, a lack of energy, overwhelming sadness or social withdrawal.

For some, though, it is as simple as the weather making it impossible to feel positive.

Elan Mccallum, a senior creative writing major, said she has dealt with feeling more depressed in the winter for several years, and can’t feel right in the darker, colder parts of the year.

“Whenever it was sunny,” Mccallum said, “… it would feel normal, optimistic.”

Wilson said counseling services checks with students during their initial screening, to see when they started feeling like this, with most responses showing they had those feelings before and school and the weather increased them.

She said since that is often the case, students should come in before they feel overwhelmed, instead of waiting until it is unbearable and try to be self-aware and proactive when dealing with depression.

“If students are experiencing some of these symptoms,” Wilson said, “they should look at self-care and stress management.”

To accommodate the high demand in the winter and reach students who would not otherwise seek out Counseling Services, Wilson said they have started the “Let’s Talk Program.”

She also said the program is a walk-in service for confidential consultation and allows students to talk about whatever they would like with a focus on “consultation, information and referral,” and educating students on what can cause this increase in depression in the winter.

Mccallum said she didn’t think about external factors before getting more information about it.

“It didn’t occur to me that it could be a seasonal thing,” Mccallum said.

In addition to the “Let’s Talk Program,” the Counseling Services also has a self-screening and assessment on their website, so students can gauge their own feelings if they aren’t comfortable talking to people about it but would like to have more information.

The “Let’s Talk Program” is Mondays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in room 2011 of the Davies Center, and Thursdays from 1-3 p.m. in room 3017 of McIntyre Library.