As high school students make their way through the winding road of adolescence and transition into adulthood, many struggle with their self-esteem, but such issues may just be caused by a change in the weather.
According to a study by WordPress, while about one in four teenagers will experience real depression before age 24, some only suffer from a mild form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD occurs at the same time every year and causes moodiness, inability to concentrate, sadness, lack of motivation and energy and low self-esteem. It is usually self-diagnosable and confirmed by a doctor. The most common form of SAD is winter depression, but it can also occur during the spring and summer months. Often times, kids with SAD aren’t even aware of what might really be causing them to feel so down.
“I think I have definitely been affected by SAD and I believe my little brother struggles with SAD as well,” said So. Zeely Sawyer.
The causes of SAD during the winter months mainly stems from a lack of light and warmth which can affect the parts of the brain that are linked directly to instinctual behaviors of “hibernation” and the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps function mood, social behavior, appetite, sleep and memory. In the summer months, SAD is caused by too much sunlight and can lead to modulations in melatonin production, which helps regulate sleep cycles.
“It is pretty normal in teens to have self-esteem issues during growth, development and the struggles of high school which can also contribute to depression and other related issues in students,” said nurse Laura Schiavone at DHS’s Student Based Health Center.
Treatment for those with SAD includes prescribed medication, light therapy, talking to a counselor, exercise and spending time with friends or doing desired activities.
“From personal experience, you can’t cure low self-esteem, but you can protect someone else from the worst of it by being there for them. Cat videos and naps are what helped me with my dark times,” said Sr. Parker Gaughan.
Those who live in places with particularly harsh winters or frequently changing weather may be more likely to be affected by SAD.
“We don’t get lots of kids that come to us saying they’re struggling with SAD, though I imagine that some may be since the weather can be sunny all day and then blizzarding the next here in Colorado,” said academic advisor Deb Medenwaldt. “No matter what kids are struggling with, we’re always here to talk and to remind them of how amazing they are.”
The counselors at DHS are all very dedicated to helping students who have self-esteem issues, are struggling with depression or just need help dealing with a breakdown.
“All staff here at DHS, including the counseling department and teachers, have been working on becoming a team of communication so that we can help and support students with depression and low self-esteem and make them feel connected and cared about,” said academic advisor Rachel Colsman.
General low-self esteem is common in teenagers largely due to the influence of the media. Junior Carter Feldman-Marshall has experience with this and knows how to avoid it.
“I don’t really know about SAD, but I believe that we can help one another by being honest about the beauty we really see in people, not delving in the unrealistic standards of models and sports stars,” said Feldman-Marshall.