Human Services Issues Coping Strategies & Tips for Loved Ones

(TRENTON) - As Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday and everyone sets their clocks back, the New Jersey Department of Human Services issued coping strategies for people who battle depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

While the approaching holiday season is typically marked by celebration and good cheer, the shorter days, at least initially, can create more depression for people with SAD, noted Valerie Mielke, the Department’s assistant commissioner for the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

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For people with bipolar disorder, severe depression or SAD, this time of the year can be particularly difficult because of shorter days of sunlight.

SAD is estimated to affect up to 9 percent of the adult and teen populations in some of the states of the Northeast region of the U.S.

“The decreased amount of sunlight can be challenging,” Mielke said. “But there are proven methods that help people cope.”

People with SAD can experience more urges to hurt themselves during the winter months, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Symptoms of SAD, which often begins to build slowly in late autumn, are usually the same as with depression:

  • Loss of interest in work or other activities;
  • Mood changes;
  • Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement;
  • Social withdrawal;
  • Unhappiness and irritability;
  • Increased appetite with weight gain;
  • Increased sleep and daytime sleepiness; and
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate in the afternoon.

Health care providers and mental health professionals can make a diagnosis and recommend treatment that can range from light therapy to counseling to antidepressant medications to cognitive behavioral therapy that provides coping skills.

Here are some suggestions for helping someone with SAD:

  • Spend time with your loved one even though the person may be withdrawn or quiet;
  • Keep your house well lit;
  • Take a walk outside each day;
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi and medication;
  • Eat a well-balanced diet;
  • Sit closer to bright windows both at home and in the office; and
  • Refer an individual to a therapist, psychiatrist or physician for treatment.

If you have questions or concerns about this, talk with a health professional about what you can do to help yourself or a family member who is depressed due to SAD.