By C.J. Vetter
HAYS COUNTY – As summer begins, many are looking forward to a time of relaxation and warm weather. Others, however, can have a difficult time adjusting to the new temperatures and schedules.
The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) warns that mental illness can be especially difficult to detect during this time, more so than others.
While many are aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where different seasons can have an impact on people mentally, most are only aware of the effects that fall and winter bring. However, as suicide rates skyrocket in Texas during summer, many people may not see the effects at first.
“Sunlight definitely gives us that vitamin D and boosts that serotonin, but too much sunlight can trigger that anxiety and depression,” said Dulce Gruwell, Peer Program Manager at NAMI Central Texas. “In the summer, we hear a lot about how to keep ourselves physically well, but we need to also take care of our mental health.”
Reasons for the onset of SAD during summer can include poorer air quality, as allergies can increase the possibility of depression and likelihood of suicidal behavior, and extended periods of heat, which can cause sleeplessness, lethargy and dehydration. Changes in schedule, such as summer vacation or increased work, can also have an impact on mental health as well.
“Have a morning routine, an afternoon routine and then an evening routine, and it can be something as simple as saying at 8 a.m. I’ll go outside with my little one and walk the dog, or at noon we’ll have lunch, and even though we don’t have anywhere to go, we still have a strict bedtime,” Gruwell said.
Signs to look for those who might be suffering from SAD include increased levels of sleep, changes in mood and appetite, lack of concentration and energy, and physical aches and pains. Those seeking to help are advised to approach the affected individual on a personal level, and not try and “fix” the problem.
“Again, if they seem distant or have changes of habit, if they don’t seem themselves, or they’re negative or hopeless, or more risky, that’s definitely time to start a conversation and ask them if they’re okay,” Gruwell said. “The only way we’ll know for sure is approaching them and talking to them.”
For more information on the disorder, or if you are seeking help for either yourself or another, NAMI Central Texas offers a variety of different programs and support groups at namicentraltx.org.