The above question was raised with me recently.
For those not familiar with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) it is a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern, reoccurring annually it specific times of the year. Like other forms of depression, it covers a wide spectrum ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms include a feeling of sadness and poor self-esteem, low energy levels and fatigue, lack of motivation and focus, lack of enjoyment from activities and a reduction in time spent socialising with family and friends.
SAD is often talked about in relation to teenagers and young adults but increasing research into and awareness of the illness has shown that children can be affected also. It is generally understood that the primary cause of SAD is linked to a reduced exposure to sunlight and is particularly prevalent in the shorter, darker days of autumn and winter. This theory suggests that the lack of sunlight may affect the production of serotonin and melatonin; both important hormones for mood and sleep. So with the shorter hours of daylight and changing of the clocks that are features of cooler months it would be wise to be aware of the symptoms of SAD not only in adults and teenagers but in children also.
Depending on the severity of the SAD symptoms (a GP should be consulted by anyone and for anyone experiencing SAD symptoms) there are now a number of treatments and tools available to help ease the condition. Light therapy lamps and bulbs which mimic sunlight, regular exercise, talking therapies, relaxation practices such as yoga and meditation and supplements like vitamin D are all believed to help manage symptoms of this debilitating mental health condition.
The Be the Jellyfish programme and resources combines art, relaxation and communication to support children’s social and emotional wellbeing. We have recognised that benefits of such activities for children, particularly in times of sadness and low self-esteem, to be tenfold. For children suffering with undiagnosed SAD, the feelings may be confusing and frightening. They may feel worried that there is no apparent reason for what they are experiencing and may feel confused and frustrated that others are apparently relishing the autumn/winter months and the festivities they bring. Facilitating an environment whereby children can communicate thoughts and feelings safely is key to supporting their mental health. Be the Jellyfish classes and activities allow for this and provide a much needed time and space for all children but can also be particularly beneficial for those either knowingly or unknowingly suffering from the SAD condition.