With the release of Summer Walker's new album, Still Over It, many people have begun their proclamations of "Sad Girl/Boy Fall" finally arriving. While this time of year brings humorous discourse across social media platforms, there are deeper issues at play when the leaves start to fall. Seasonal depression is a mental health issue that affects numerous people across the globe. When speaking about Gen Z, efforts are needed to ensure this generation is their strongest mentally.
Seasonal depression is "depression that gets triggered by a change in seasons, usually when fall starts," The Cleveland Clinic reported. Often referred to as the "winter blues," this form of depression affects "5% of adults in the United States" and "tends to start in young adulthood."
The symptoms of seasonal depression or "seasonal affective disorder (SAD) include those associated with major depression, and some specific symptoms that differ for winter-pattern and summer-pattern SAD," The National Institute of Mental Health explained. These include oversleeping, feeling hopeless or social withdrawal.
"… Seasonal depression is a type of depression. It occurs for the most part at the same type of time annually. Someone might feel a loss of interest or a loss of pleasure in things they want to enjoy. Every time when winter comes around or every time when summer comes for some people, they may feel like 'Something's wrong with me,'" Erica Paschel, therapist and head of Decatur's I am Rooted, told BlavityU.
Going into your late teens into early adulthood is already stressful enough. However, our society today has added a plethora of other causes for seasonal depression for these younger generations.
"College students are going through a big global traumatic stressor with the pandemic … It has been globally traumatic … We don't know when this is going to end. Maybe there's even grieving; not even just grief with a lost loved one. You can even grieve with, 'Wow, I didn't get to do this my senior year, I didn't get to walk across the stage, or I had to do this virtually," Paschel said. "I am in my dorm or apartment all the time not really getting much vitamin D. Not getting much fresh air or self-care happening, which is very crucial. It's the stress of the pandemic and the stress of being a college student; that's also a full-time job. There is a lot that happens in that age group with all the big milestones — You are 18, you are 21 years old, you're just becoming an adult, there's different things that come about with different responsibilities."
Those who attend HBCUs understand that the mental health of students has been a long-standing concern. When it comes to maintaining your mental health, Gen Z faces innumerable obstacles.
A 2021 study by Sharron Xuanren Wang and Jarid Goodman found that 49% of the 98 HBCU undergraduate students surveyed met the clinical cutoff for depression. Researchers also discovered that 39% met the cutoff for anxiety and 52% for both depression and anxiety.
A study presented at the American Public Health Expo in Philadelphia in 2019, highlighted depression at HBCUs noted that over 52% of the 179 students surveyed had "mild to severe depression…regardless of their socioeconomic or behavioral status." Due to these high statistics, the study concluded that "an evidence-based, data-driven mental health screen program is needed in HBCUs."
While most HBCUs offer counseling services for those who need to talk to someone, there is no specific time when SAD hits every person. Easy techniques can benefit those who need help simply getting through their daily activities. Everyday Health shared, prioritizing tasks such as letting the sun into your space, trying aromatherapy, and even keeping a journal to write your thoughts out can help ease the mind.
Seasonal depression is a common issue that is affecting Gen Z now more than ever. While it is easier to joke and slide down a wall listening to sad music rather than putting in the necessary work, many tools and professionals are available to help when needed most.