Summer heat leads to mental health issues

By CJ Vetter

COUNTY OF HAYS – As summer begins, many look forward to a relaxing time and warm weather. Others, however, may find it difficult to adjust to new temperatures and schedules.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) warns that mental illness can be particularly difficult to detect during this time, more so than others.

While many are aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where different seasons can have a mental impact on people, most are only aware of the effects of fall and winter. However, as suicide rates skyrocket in Texas during the summer, many people may not see the effects at first.

“Sunlight definitely gives us that vitamin D and boosts that serotonin, but too much sunlight can trigger that anxiety and depression,” said Dulce Gruwell, Peer program manager at NAMI Central Texas. “In the summer we hear a lot about how to keep ourselves physically healthy, but we also need to take care of our mental health.”

Reasons for the onset of SAD during the summer can include poor air quality, as allergies can increase the possibility of depression and the likelihood of suicidal behavior, and long periods of heat, which can cause the insomnia, lethargy and dehydration. Schedule changes, such as summer vacation or increased work, can also impact mental health.

“Have a morning routine, an afternoon routine, then an evening routine, and it can be something as simple as saying at 8 a.m. I’m going to go out with my little one and walk the dog, or at noon we will have lunch, and even though we have nowhere to go, we still have a strict bedtime,” Gruwell said.

Signs to look for for those who may have SAD include increased levels of sleep, changes in mood and appetite, lack of concentration and energy, and physical pain. Those seeking help are advised to approach the person concerned on a personal level, and not try to “solve” the problem.

“Again, if they seem distant or have habit changes, if they don’t seem like themselves, or if they’re negative or desperate, or more risky, now is definitely the time to start. a conversation and ask them if they are okay.” said Gruwell. “The only way we’ll know for sure is to approach them and talk to them.”

For more information about the disorder, or if you are seeking help for yourself or another, NAMI Central Texas offers a variety of different programs and support groups at namicentraltx.org.

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