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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Maintaining good mental health ahead of seasonal depression in a pandemic

Seasonal depression can happen during any season, it’s not just winter.

The pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s mental health. As seasons change, for some that means seasonal depression is right around the corner.

“When is a good time to get mental health help? Now, especially if you’re not feeling overwhelmed,” said Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor at Community Health Network.

He said seasonal depression can happen during any season, it’s not just winter. That's why it's official name is Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern. And depression doesn’t always look like sadness.

“For some people, it can look like indifference, like I just don’t care about anything, I’m just turned off, or it can look like you're agitated or on edge and you just get a little more irritated with things,” Richardson said.

He said that there are many free tools to help people maintain good mental health.

“Self-help groups, they can either be online or in-person,” Richardson said. He cautions it’s important to still maintain social distance if one is to go to an in-person self-help group.

“It could be reading, or looking up information, or reaching out to (religious or) spiritual (leaders) or clergy members,” Richardson said.

He said there are resources that can help one find a professional that fits within their budget.

 “Contacting referral lines like 211, and you can just say, ‘this is what I’m going through, this is where I live, and how much I can pay,'” Richardson said.

He said calling one’s primary care physician for a referral or looking up a local mental health center are also options. But there are also some action-oriented things that can be done on a regular basis; similar to how working out can help maintain one’s overall physical health.  

“Tactical breathing exercises to help with anxiety and calmness, practice mindfulness activities, which you can find online or reading at the library. Maintaining social support groups, even if it’s just one other person,” Richardson said. There's an easy-to-follow list of guided meditations on YouTube and Richardson has some free guided imagery exercises with and without music. 

“These are things you do to keep you resilient and maybe even for some people resistant to stress,” he added.

It’s also important for loved ones to be aware of potential red flags.

“Sometimes people will say things pretty direct like 'I’m thinking of killing myself,'” Richardson said. “But frankly more often, it’s more subtle like ‘I’m tired, no one will care if I’m not around, I don’t know if I can do this anymore, I’m going to give up, I’m done.’ Sometimes just by itself, it may not alert someone, but if you put it into perspective or the big picture, it could be a sign.”

Checking on loved ones may be difficult with social distancing, but Kimble said it’s important to be intentional about calling people to stay connected. And doing so also helps our own personal mental health.

If you or someone you know is thinking of hurting themselves, you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.