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How Durham College fights winter’s SADness

With winter now behind us, many Canadians are emerging from the familiar pattern of cloudy days and deep snow that often contributes to tiredness, depression, and social fatigue.

These symptoms, most likely experienced in the colder months, can be linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, shorter days and lack of sunlight in the winter are the root causes of SAD. Although spring-onset SAD is possible, it is far less common. Those who experience SAD can also experience feelings of drowsiness, lack of interest, and social withdrawal.

This challenge is a reality for some Durham College students, particularly those new to Canada’s cold winter weather. Miguel Ortiz, a Durham College student, experienced SAD when he arrived in the country three years ago.

“The first winter here was really tough for me, especially as a person who has been living in a warm country my whole life,” Ortiz said. “It really affected my mood, and I didn’t realize it until I got here.”

Ortiz also noted that the shift in climate impacted his diet, which in turn influenced his experience with SAD. “The local diet is different, and it affects my mood because certain vegetables and plants can’t be grown here in the winter,” he said.

Combating SAD and other feelings of melancholy during the winter months may be difficult. According to a 2023 BioMed Central Public Health Research study, students must be aware of SAD and prioritize their mental health.

The Canadian Red Cross advises maintaining an active lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, and consulting healthcare professionals as positive solutions to SAD. The college reinforces this approach by offering many resources and events for student wellness.

For instance, the college’s Recreation and Wellness Centre hosts Wellness Wednesdays to give students a chance to reflect on their mental health.

Jamie Meldrum, a wellness coach at the centre, highlights how SAD impacts students, noting, “At this time of year, SAD is real, it’s a thing, and it does affect people, and students are not immune to that.”

Staying on top of your wellness can be difficult, especially as a student. Meldrum points out how student life can impact mental health. He said, “With the cold weather, days are generally shorter, so there’s less sunlight and Vitamin D. But also, stress from exams, so there is a combination of things.”

The college also organizes events that encourage students to seek safe and supportive spaces to aid one another in their pursuit of well-being.

Recently, the Campus Critical Response Services (CCRS) program at the college hosted a Valentine’s Day event geared toward promoting self-care. This initiative allowed the Durham College community to learn about prioritizing their wellness.

Iman Khan, a member of the CCRS, says it’s important for students to take care of their mental health. She said, “We want everyone to feel comforted, and we are there for them.”