University of Nebraska Medical Center

Feeling the blues lately?


Public Health Community Advisory – The faculty and staff at the College of Public Health (COPH) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center are working with community members to explore ways to collaborate on mental health issues. Community collaborations include working with community mental health treatment professionals, community liaisons in the COPH Center for Reducing Health Disparities, and faculty involved in research opportunities such as the NIH-funded project, “A Systems Approach for Community-Linked Health Research Across the ‘Plaza.’” One area of interest includes research on maternal depression, especially for women before, during, and after delivery of a baby, particularly with the Latino community. That is just one kind of depression, but others affect a greater segment of the general population as well. Here is one example to be aware of:

“Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually in the winter. SAD may begin during the teen years or in adulthood. Like other forms of depression, it occurs more often in women than in men. People who live in places with long winter nights are at greater risk for SAD. A less common form of the disorder involves depression during the summer months.”1 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002499/)

SAD symptoms usually build up slowly in the late autumn and winter months. Symptoms are usually the same as with other forms of depression:

  • Hopelessness
  • Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Increased sleep (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Sluggish movements
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unhappiness and irritability

SAD can sometimes become long-term depression. Bipolar disorder or thoughts of suicide are also possible. As with other types of depression, antidepressant medications and talk therapy can be effective.
To manage your symptoms at home:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Take medicines the right way. Learn how to manage side effects.
  • Learn to watch for early signs that your depression is getting worse. Have a plan if it does get worse.
  • Try to exercise more often. Look for activities that make you happy.
  • Practice good sleep habits.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. These can make depression worse over time. They may also affect your judgment about suicide.

When you are struggling with depression, talk about how you’re feeling to someone you trust. Try to be around people who are caring and positive. Volunteer or get involved in group activities.
Light therapy using a special lamp with a very bright light (10,000 lux) that mimics light from the sun may also be helpful. Call your health care provider for details on how to use light therapy effectively.

1PubMed Health and the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia retrieved on January 2, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002499/.

This article was compiled by Denise Britigan, MA, PhD, CHES, assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health.

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