December is Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month
Season Affective Disorder affects roughly 4-6% of the American population. As we head into winter, pharmacies around the country will undoubtedly receive some patients whom are living with SAD. It is estimated that an additional 10-20% of people living in northern climates are also affected with winter onset SAD symptoms. In areas where the winter months are often dark, cold, and harsh–how can pharmacies offer a respite from SAD and raise awareness during the month of December?
Raising awareness could begin with something as simple as a brochure informing people of the symptoms of SAD ; these symptoms include a lasting depressed mood, loss of interest in hobbies and activities once enjoyed, and physical issues like fatigue and cravings for certain types of foods. Another way to help raise awareness of SAD is to conduct an informative session with a local psychological clinic or health practitioner. Offering a place where those who either are living with SAD or want to learn more about it, can ask questions – is key. By reaching out to local mental health clinics, a pharmacy can sponsor a clinic or send some of its team members to any meeting or informative session that may take place. Chances are, many local mental health clinics will already offer such events and services throughout the winter months. Teaming up to deliver information about SAD to your community during SAD Awareness month is just one of the many ways a pharmacy can be prepared to meet client needs.
Common therapies for treating SAD are varied. The most often recommended course of treatment is light box therapy. Clients can purchase light boxes (or, if their insurance covers them–bill their insurance for reimbursement) and use them for roughly 30 minutes a day to alleviate symptoms of SAD. Light box therapy usually takes a week for users to start seeing benefits from it, but it can often take up to 30 days for some to obtain relief. Light boxes are sold in varying degrees of lux (light) generated, and it is important that patients know the difference between a 2,500 lux light box and its higher counterpart – the standard 10,000 lux light box. There are also conventional anti-depressants that can be prescribed on a patient by patient basis to those individuals affected by SAD. Pharmacists should discuss both light box therapy and traditional prescription treatment with their patients as a plan of treatment for SAD.
Even if your pharmacy is in a warmer climate, educating your customers about SAD cannot go amiss. Clients and referrals may have family or friends living with SAD in a colder area of the US. Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month is something that should be touched upon by all pharmacies this winter.