Autumn Depression: Is It Real?

The Labor Day holiday is our unofficial signal that the end of summer is near. The days are getting shorter, the nights longer, and the weather colder. During the fall (and often through the winter) many people go through short periods of time where they may feel sad or not like their usual selves (sometimes called “winter blues”). Often, these mood changes begin and end when the seasons change. In some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities. If you have noticed significant changes in your (or your staff, if you are a manager) mood and behavior whenever the seasons change, you may be suffering from a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The effects of SAD can have an enormous impact on the workplace. Consider the fact that since SAD is a type of depression characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern, the signs and symptoms of SAD include those associated with major depression. They can last about 4 to 5 months per year. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, those who suffer from SAD may experience any or all of the following symptoms.

  • Feel depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Lose interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Experience changes in appetite or weight
  • Have problems with sleep
  • Feel sluggish or agitated
  • Have low energy
  • Feel hopeless or worthless
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Have frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Can you imagine any employee who suffers from SAD being able to get much work accomplished when experiencing these symptoms? Their work, creativity, ability to problem solve, and relationships will all suffer.

You may be wondering if employers have any obligation to employees in these instances. After all, isn’t it the employees’ responsibility to deal with their personal mental health care issues? Yes, it’s true that employees who suffer from SAD should talk with their healthcare provider or a mental health specialist about their concerns and treatment options. However, employers can take steps to become more sensitive to the issue and make small changes that could make affected employees more comfortable during these times. This article suggests that making changes to address seasonal mood disruptions and SAD in the workplace doesn’t need to be cost-prohibitive. The article offers five easily actionable ideas to ease the effect of winter blues on everyone in your library or office.

For more information on SAD, visit the National Institute for Mental Health’s website.

**Get Immediate Help

If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, consider using the following resources. 

    • Call or Text 988, a Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • Call 911 or go to an emergency room
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline