Pandemic, winter may add up to mental health crisis in Clark County

“We’ve learned how to treat (Seasonal Affective Disorder) very effectively with bright light that mimics the intensity of sunlight in the early morning,” he said. More intensive treatments and medications can help too. But in high-SADness Alaska, Keepers said, the first thing you hear when you call the community mental health clinic is a recorded suggestion that, before anything else, you try light therapy for two weeks.

Proper light therapy involves a “light box” that cranks out 10,000 lux (a standard measurement of brightness) emphasizing morning’s white-blue rays and filtering out harmful ultraviolet rays. Experts recommend 20 to 30 minutes of exposure every morning. Light therapy can harm skin or cause other side effects, so talk to your doctor first.

Slaps in the face

Given annual SADness plus the once-in-a-lifetime coronavirus pandemic, everyone’s got a reason to feel stressed and depressed this winter.

People who already struggle with mental health challenges are struggling harder, Schneiderman said.

“They’ve lost their groups, their doctors, their therapists, their friends,” she said. “They’ve lost their routines. They’ve lost the place where they go have coffee. They’ve lost it all — all the very things we tell them they need to have in their lives. It’s been a real slap in the face.

“Everything is virtual now, and not everyone responds well to that. They stop taking medications, they go back to their addictions, which throws their families into chaos. They may be locked into residences with people who may not have realized how sick they are,” she said.

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