Home Opinion COLUMN: A blue winter semester in Rexburg

COLUMN: A blue winter semester in Rexburg

I woke up sad. My high spirits plummeted when I opened the window and all I could see was the cold, white snow.

I cried a little without any reason and I did my best to put myself together again. I forced a smile and prepared to go to school. I opened the door and the coldest wind froze my smile, but I needed to keep going.

I never experienced seasonal affective disorder until I moved to Rexburg. All of a sudden, I felt more tired, irritated and sad. But I didn’t have time to give up. Life expected me to get up, fake a smile and get busy.

As much as I tried to be happy and excited to do my duties in school during the winter semester, I wished to have a little break to receive help, to feel and stabilize my emotions.

My mental health should be as important as my physical health. Generally, society has more mercy when people miss a class or a work day because they are physically sick, but many have strict consequences if you miss a day because “you were sad.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.”

As adults, people expect you to control your emotions and thoughts. But how can you force yourself to feel happy when a riot of voices invade your mind and make you see your life in the color gray? Mental disorders like SAD are chemically impossible to control by oneself unless coupled with therapy or medicine.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, “sunlight controls the levels of molecules that help maintain normal serotonin levels, but in people with SAD, this regulation does not function properly, resulting in decreased serotonin levels in the winter.”

On March 7, many people I talked to at BYU-Idaho were having a bad day and were experiencing similar symptoms as mine. Coincidently, the week of March 7 was a Monday and the temperatures dropped.

“On that day I wanted to just go home, get into my pajamas and binge-watch Netflix until I fell asleep,” said Damon Callister, a senior studying horticulture. “I was not the only one who felt like this, almost everyone I talked to that day was feeling the same, and some worse. A lot of people were just plain mad because of their circumstances in school and life.”

The harsh winter in Rexburg brings not only SAD to people, but also “the winter blues” which is a mild disorder of SAD.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, people with SAD and “the winter blues” may experience one or more of these symptoms: “feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day; losing interest in activities you once enjoyed; experiencing changes in appetite or weight; Oversleeping (hypersomnia), feeling sluggish or agitated, having low energy, feeling hopeless or worthless, having difficulty concentrating, and social withdrawal.”

People cannot control these symptoms on their own. Those who have experienced mood changes do not consciously think about it. They just act differently without knowing what is going on in their brain.

As a society, prejudice against mental health in school and work should change to be on the same level as physical sickness. Schools should at least provide more mental healthcare to those with seasonal depression, especially BYU-I, the university built in Iceburg, mostly known as Rexburg.

BYU-I has positively increased mental health awareness and provides therapy to students; however, the waiting lists are so long that not everyone can receive counsel and treatment.

According to the New York Times, “several states, including Arizona, Oregon and Virginia, have recently passed bills that allow students to miss school to take care of their mental health, efforts that were often supported or led by students.”

This initiative should be reinforced in other states, in addition to Idaho, so students can have the time and resources to go to therapy and heal their minds.

Meanwhile, I hope for a day where mental health will be as important as a cold and a number one priority in schools and work.

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