Fall is rounding the corner. More than a third of the semester is over. And, seemingly, everything is ramping up.
Academic work is piling up and becoming more demanding. COVID-19 is a still pressing background stressor that we cannot help but be affected by. And although many of us may welcome the fall weather as a reprieve from the heat, the colder season comes with its own set of unique challenges.
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder, results in feelings of depression, low energy and difficulty concentrating during the colder months of the year. The disorder is often attributed to a reduction in sunlight, which affects one’s circadian rhythm, melatonin levels and serotonin production. Ten million Americans face seasonal depression each fall and winter, and that number is only increasing.
The amount of people impacted by seasonal depression is so significant that social media trends — such as those on TikTok — have started a discussion about it. One such trend features individuals detailing the specific negative signs that indicate their mental health is declining in the winter months.
The circulation of these trends reveals two things: just how common mental health challenges really are, and how the narrative surrounding mental health is becoming less stigmatized.
Social media platforms often serve as a space to build community over common issues, including mental health issues. Perhaps in part due to this, Generation Z’s perspective on mental health differs from that of its generational predecessors.
Individuals born during Generation Z are more likely to have gone to therapy or received mental health treatment as compared to older generations. Generation Z is also more likely to report their mental health problems.
Though college-aged students are working to make mental health a less taboo subject, there is still much work to be done in destigmatizing it. As a result, many may not feel comfortable seeking help when they’re struggling, especially if they come from backgrounds where discussion of mental health is frowned upon. For instance, many people of color face systematic and structural barriers that have resulted in particularly negative connotations associated with mental health problems.
UNC Counseling and Psychological Services has mental health resources for students of color such as the Multicultural Health Program, which offers counseling and group therapy services, particularly for Black, indigenous and students of color. CAPS began to address some issues with representation for students of color within staff last year after students petitioned and brought attention to the disparity. Increased funding can only solidify these mental health resources for the student body and can help meet demand during the winter months.
On top of everything else students face at this point in the semester, in the pandemic and in the season, it can be incredibly overwhelming.
So remember to reach out and check up on your friends. Treat your community with grace. Acknowledge that facing the constant challenges thrown our way throughout this year — and navigating the uncertain road to life post-pandemic — is no small feat.
Most importantly, pay attention to your mental health and seek help to improve it if you need to. You are not alone in doing so.
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