New lamps will help treat seasonal affective disorder


Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Cooridnator at RRC, says seasonal effective disorder can lead to more serious depression. THE PROJECTOR/ Tony Hinds

Many Red River College (RRC) students are unaware of the medical coverage available through RRC Student’s Association Students Benefits Plan. The package includes up to $1000 of psychologist or clinical social worker talk therapy. RRC also offers free counselling from Student Support Services.

Jessica Brown, a 22-year-old RRC student of the Notre Dame campus, opted out of the coverage in September because she’s still covered by her mother’s medical plan.

“I didn’t even know that was a thing,” Brown said. “I honestly never heard that. I’m broke, so a thousand dollars is a lot of money to me. Now I’m really concerned that I opted out.”

A doctor’s referral is required to be eligible for therapy through the Students Benefits Plan.

The shift from autumn into winter is a time known for triggering depression and even seasonal affective disorder. The Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba classifies seasonal affective disorder as a subtype of major depression.

None of the students asked by The Projector had heard of seasonal affective disorder.

“Oh wow,” Brown said with a laugh. “I’ve never even heard of that, and I’m a nursing student.”

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can include sleeping longer, a poor mood, lethargy, a lack of motivation, and difficulty concentrating.

RRC’s Mental Health Coordinator Breanna Sawatzky says that seasonal affective disorder is not just a mood disorder; it’s a precursor for developing a more serious mood disorder, such as a clinical depression.

Many people will experience a change in their mood with the winter season. Sawatzky says it’s important not to self-diagnose seasonal affective disorder. She says it’s not uncommon for students effected by seasonal affective disorder to miss long periods of school, experience thoughts of suicide, or even attempt suicide.

“They might need to use antidepressant medication or go to talk therapy,” Sawatzky says. “The seasonal change is often just a trigger that they’ve learned from experiencing a past depression.”

Sawatzky says those afflicted with the disorder have learned to take steps to manage the change in seasons.

SAD light therapy can be one of the most effective methods to combat symptoms of the condition. The therapy simply involves exposing the person to full spectrum florescent lights with a 10,000 Lux, called SAD lamps.

“A couple of the public libraries even have (SAD lamps),” Sawatzky says. “You can just sit down at a table with one.”

The Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba rents out sad lamps for a $20 fee. Sawatzky says anyone recognizing symptoms of SAD should consult a doctor before using a SAD lamp.