1 in 10 people face mental health challenges that impact daily life
Psychiatrist answers questions about seasonal affective disorder, depression, and more.
In a normal year, 1 in 10 adults and children will experience mental health challenges serious enough to affect their work, family, or school life. The past two years have been far from ordinary, and this has impacted both those who were already struggling with their mental health and those who had never experienced mental health issues before. We interviewed Dr. Nicholas Batson, board-certified adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist at Crystal Run Healthcare, to discuss how external factors can affect a person’s mental health.
What effect has the pandemic had on people’s mental health?
Nicholas Batson: The pandemic is the catalyst for the rise in mental health symptoms and other contributing factors such as access to food, financial concerns, and loneliness. Several surveys are reporting a doubling of people with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. As many as 30% of adults are currently experiencing significant levels of stress-related symptoms.
And now that we’re approaching the winter season, can you explain what SAD is?
NB: SAD is the acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder and is a form of depression related to seasonal change. Living further from the equator, where there are fewer daylight hours in the winter, increases the risk of developing SAD. SAD negatively impacts the lives of 16 million people in the U.S. every year.
When can someone experience SAD?
NB: Symptoms of SAD typically start in late fall and early winter and last until the spring. Some people have a mild ‘blah’ feeling, while others can have depressive symptoms lasting months. January and February are the worst months for those with SAD because of the lack of daylight, which contributes to worsening symptoms.
What are some symptoms people should look out for if they are experiencing poor mental health?
NB: Common symptoms are fatigue, sleeping too much, and overeating. Other more severe daily symptoms are a loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness, and even thoughts of suicide.
What are some ways you encourage patients to identify their current mental status and how to combat low periods during the colder months?
NB: If there is anything good about SAD, it is that SAD is predictable. Prevention can go a long way to fight off SAD during the winter months. Patients with previous symptoms of SAD can explore several different treatments. One might schedule a regular follow-up during the fall season to review any current symptoms. Another option is restarting cognitive behavioral therapy. There is also light therapy, a treatment unique to SAD. Light therapy involves using a specific, high-intensity lightbox in the morning for 20-30 minutes.
How do you maintain good mental health practices during this time?
NB: I wish I could say move to the Caribbean for the winter, but unfortunately, I can’t. Maintaining a daily routine is helpful, particularly getting up when the alarm goes off. Sometimes I set two alarms because it is too easy to turn off the first one. Exercise is another valuable tool to combat the winter doldrums. I like to run, bike, and even do online exercise videos with my kids every once in a while.
When should someone seek professional help?
NB: There is never a wrong time to seek help. The key is not to wait until symptoms impact your quality of life, even if only in a small way. Treatments are effective and there are several options a person can take to take care of their mental health.
At Crystal Run Healthcare, we take a multi-disciplinary, integrated approach to mental health and wellness. If you or a loved one find yourself feeling sad, anxious, restless, hopeless or irritable, eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little, experiencing difficulty accomplishing normal tasks, or just not feeling like yourself, it may be time to make an appointment with your primary care provider at Crystal Run to discuss what your next steps may be. Crystal Run Healthcare uniquely integrates behavioral health into its primary care services. PCPs can screen patients for mental health issues, consult behavioral health specialists, and provide referrals when needed. In many cases, your PCP can provide treatment and long-term management for depression, and anxiety disorders. Our Behavioral Health team consists of experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, and clinical social workers that work closely with your primary care provider to develop a safe, effective treatment plan to get you feeling like yourself again. For more information and resources, visit crystalrunhealthcare.com/specialties/psychiatry.
Dr. Nicholas Batson is a psychiatrist who is board-certified in adult, child, and adolescent psychiatry. Batson earned his B.A. from the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, and earned his doctorate in medicine from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, Cupecoy St. Maarten. He completed his residency in psychiatry at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and completed his fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Louisville. His clinical interests include child psychiatry, adolescent psychiatry, adult psychiatry, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and disruptive behavioral disorders, mood disorders, family therapy, psychotic disorders, and developmental disorders. Batson is currently seeing patients in Middletown, New York.
Crystal Run Healthcare is a premier multispecialty group practice with more than 400 providers in more than 50 medical specialties and more than 18 practice locations in the Hudson Valley and lower Catskill region. For 25 years, Crystal Run has been strongly committed to providing best-in-class primary care as well as unsurpassed sub-specialty care in a wide variety of medical and surgical specialties. In 2021, 61 Crystal Run physicians were selected as Top Doctors in the Hudson Valley by Castle Connolly in 24 medical and surgical specialties. Through a relationship with Montefiore Health System, Crystal Run patients enjoy access to additional world-class services and highly specialized care for the most challenging and complex cases. Crystal Run continually strives to provide high-quality, affordable care to all patients when and where they need it, while simultaneously lowering per capita costs, all in furtherance of the “Triple Aim” of “Better Care, Better Health and Lower Cost.” For more information about Crystal Run Healthcare visit crystalrunhealthcare.com, and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook or call 845-703-6999.