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State 42nd in mental distress; winter can worsen depression

Tahlequah Daily Press - 12/9/2022

Dec. 9—Mental health struggles can occur at any time of year, but it may be exacerbated during the winter holidays.

According to a 2021 report from America's Health Rankings, Oklahoma ranked 42nd in the county for frequent mental distress. The percentage of adults who reported their mental health was not good; 14 or more days in the past 30 days came in at 17.4%.

Heather Winn, Cherokee County OSU Extension Office Family and Consumer Science educator, explained one reason individuals might be depressed during the winter.

"Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression characterized by significant changes in mood or behavior through recurrent, seasonal patterns," said Winn. "For most, SAD symptoms begin in late fall or early winter as daylight hours decrease and the weather grows colder."

Winn cited the National Institute of Mental Health on some typical SAD symptoms, including chronic fatigue, depression, changes in appetite or weight, difficulty concentrating, and feeling emotionally drained. Treatment often includes light therapy, medication, psychotherapy, and mind-body connection.

"More than 500,000 individuals suffer from SAD annually with peaks around the same time each year," said Winn.

Coping with feelings of sadness can take many forms and for those who find comfort in the spiritual, the Tahlequah United Methodist Church will host its sixth annual "Blue Christmas" service on Dec. 21.

TUMC Pastor Shana Dry said purpose of the "Blue Christmas" service is to engage people in prayer and reflection that is honest and true to their inner struggles and yearnings.

"Christmas celebrations in the church and the culture at large focus on hope realized, while the Blue Christmas service focuses on naming what is still painful and shrouded in emotional darkness and uncertainty," said Dry.

Get help

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached by calling 988. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline — formerly the 11-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number — now operates 24/7, offering services for a variety of mental health-related calls.


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