Shining light on Seasonal Affective Disorder

Jillian Schudiske, News Editor

Monday through Friday, DePaul senior Jensen Peacock wakes up when it’s still dark out, gets out of class two hours after the sun sets and rarely goes outside because of the frigid temperatures. As the weeks turn into months, it’s starting to get to her.

With winter in full swing, many students find themselves overwhelmed having to juggle school, standardized tests, homework, extracurriculars, jobs and a social life. Often it can be difficult for a person to prioritize their mental health when, in the moment, everything else seems more important. 

Adding to their daily load, some students also suffer from seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder which is a type of depression that is dependent on the season. In students, seasonal depression typically begins in the fall and continues throughout the winter. 

According to Madeleine O’Keefe of Boston University, “SAD affects an estimated 10 million Americans, with women four times more likely to be diagnosed with it than men.”

Students often suffer from a lack of motivation because of seasonal depression, and with so much to accomplish in the second semester, they often get overwhelmed. 

“In high school, it became increasingly more difficult to muster up the motivation to go to school everyday because of how little us students got to see the sun in the winter months,” Peacock said.

Feeling a little down in the winter is common because many people are not getting enough vitamin D, which can negatively shift their mood. Seasonal depression is different, however, because the vitamin D deficiency is exceptionally more prominent, it’s responsible for changes in one’s mood, sleep, appetite and energy levels. 

According to, “It is thought that shorter days and less daylight may trigger a chemical change in the brain leading to symptoms of depression.”

Many people fail to realize the early symptoms of depression, yet most dealing with depression display similar characteristics.

The warning signs to watch out whether for yourself or someone you care about that may be struggling with their mental health are changes in eating, sleeping, or hygiene habits, social withdrawal or isolation, diminished participation in enjoyable activities, feelings of hopelessness, sadness [and] worthlessness,” school social worker Ashlee Wright said.

As a way to combat seasonal depression, it’s important to do enjoyable activities in order to keep one’s mind healthy as well as getting adequate amounts of food, sleep and exercise to keep physically healthy.  

“[One should] connect and spend time with friends and family, spend time outside, engage in physical activities and exercise,” Wright said.

If a person is still struggling, there are alternative solutions such as light therapy and vitamin D supplements, which mimics outdoor light and can help supplement missing vitamin D.

  It’s important to note that, if none of these coping skills are effective and a person is still showing these symptoms , they should reach out to a healthcare provider. 

“If you are having difficulty finding balance, ask for help,” Wright said. 

There’s also medication that can help aid in depression, which, when coupled with therapy, is another way to get back on track.

According to, “[Antidepressants] can help you feel more able to do things that don’t feel possible while you’re depressed.”

When struggling with prioritizing mental health, it can be difficult to ask for help.  

“Find a healthy balance between time spent on school, homework and extracurriculars, ” Wright said. “This balance can look like whatever is best and most suitable for you.”