Shining a light on ‘SAD’

by Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

What are some thoughts that go through your mind when you think about the winter months?

As it gets darker and colder, some people tend to get a little sadder than in the bright, sunny days.

“Seasonal affective disorder is a variant of major depressive disorder where the depressive episodes show up seasonally,” said Maj. Donald Christman, mental health flight commander. “The symptoms of SAD are typically depressed mood, changes in sleep and appetite, low energy and feelings of guilt.”

There are two types of SAD: a fall on-set and a spring on-set.

“The fall on-set is more common,” Christman said. “With increased sleep, weight gain and irritability, it’s a lot like a bear going into hibernation.”

He said the less common is the spring on-set, where a person would be more likely to have insomnia and decreased appetite.

“We have approximately eight hours of daylight during the winter months,” said Staff Sgt. John Deehan, 86th Operational Weather Squadron weather forecaster. “We lose about two minutes of daylight a day until Dec. 21, when the process reverses.”

With the days getting darker as we come into the winter months, there are some things that can be done to help with SAD.

“There are many ways a person can try to prevent SAD,” Christman said. “Increasing their exposure to sunlight, with the help of a light box or other bright lights can be a big help. Get out of the office and take a walk during the daylight hours around the base.”

There is a light box available at the Health and Wellness Center for Airmen to use as needed.

SAD is more common in women, those in their late teens to early 20s and military members who have a permanent change of station to areas with less sunlight, said the mental health flight commander.

“A strong social network is key to helping someone with depression in general,” Christman said. “Having people who know when you are not yourself, not only during the winter months, but all year.”

If a fellow Airman is experiencing any of the symptoms of SAD or depression in general there are many places they can go to get help.

“The family health clinic, the mental health flight, your primary care doctor, the chaplain and military and family life consultants are all there to help,” Christman said. “The best thing a person can do is be aware and educated about SAD and get help if needed.”

Contact information
Family Health Clinic: 479-2273 or 06371-46-2273
Mental Health Clinic: 479-2390 or 06371-46-2390
Flight Medicine Clinic: 479-2282 or 06371-46-2282
Chaplain: 480-2121 or 06371-47-2121
Military and Family Life Consultants: 0152-0266-3352 or 0152-2421-1233