With the seasons changing and fewer hours of daylight, it is quite typical for students to feel a bit down. While this can be casually tossed aside as side effects of summer ending or finals approaching, it could also be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you’re uncertain what that is or only vaguely know about it, Noyes House Team is putting on an event this Saturday that hopes to provide a fun break from the end-of-the-semester stress as well as promote greater awareness of SAD at Vassar.
In association with Metcalf and ViCE, the Swinter Fair, will be held on Saturday, Dec. 5 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Villard Room. Filled with fun summer events like sand art, sno-cones, a little mermaid photo-op and even a mechanical bull shark, other features include a performance by the Axies and a table run by Metcalf that will provide information on SAD. In addition, Noyes House will be putting on Bioluminescence Mug Night on Friday, Dec. 4 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with glow paint, black lights and an under-the-sea theme. To promote their events, Noyes House Team and VCTV collaborated to create a short video featuring members of their house team in summer garb dancing to a song from “Phineas and Ferb.”
President of Noyes House Ashley Hoyle ’18 [Full Disclosure: Ashley Hoyle is a sports reporter for The Miscellany News] explained how this event came to be, saying, “Noyes House Team was brainstorming about what to do for our all-campus event this fall (which wasn’t the wedding, contrary to popular belief) and something that we decided was very important to us as a group was that our programming was intentional. We wanted to make sure that our event dealt with an important cause— of which there are many on our campus.”
“Working with Residential Life, one of the issues we deal with and think about most is mental health at Vassar, and with the semester coming to a close we know for many students winter can bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder, that became our focus point,” Hoyle continued. “We then decided we wanted to collaborate with Metcalf on this event, to make sure we could offer some helpful and informative programming at our event. So the process has been doing a lot of brainstorming amongst ourselves and with Metcalf and ViCE about what would actually be happening at the fair, signing a lot of contracts with services that will be fun for students and dealing with all the regular campus programming processes—of which there are many.”
SAD, also known as “winter blues” or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder that causes people to experience depressive symptoms during specific times of the year. While summer can cause some to feel greater anxiety, SAD in the winter can lead to lethargy and prolonged feelings of sadness, among other symptoms. SAD also can be associated with bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. The exact cause of SAD isn’t explicitly known, but it is usually situational or physiological, possibly due to a lack of serotonin tied to reduced sun exposure.
Psychologist and Metcalf Counseling Service Representative for Swinter, Jennica Karpinski, PsyD, detailed the treatment methods of SAD, elaborating, “Treatment for SAD is similar to treatment for depression in that an increase of activity, social connection and optimistic thinking will be helpful. In addition, the use of a sun lamp has been shown to be very helpful for SAD. Those with SAD can sit in front of the lamp for 15-30 minutes per day during darker months. This helps simulate sunshine and thus reduces severity of SAD symptoms.”
All over the world, mental health is a topic that is still private in many ways, which prevents those who do suffer from receiving the proper diagnosis and functions. By creating a space of acceptance and awareness, events like Swinter can help destigmatize the preconceived notions that surround mental health disorders such as SAD. And the creativity that Noyes House Team has put into arranging this event, originally developed by Noyes Vice President Aiden Lewy ’18, to simultaneously educate and delight makes it so effective in what it aims to achieve.
Describing how Swinter educates while providing fun for all, Noyes House Secretary Liza Ayres ’18 commented, “Our goal was to plan a creative all-campus event that has never happened before. Swinter is the perfect event to acknowledge a serious topic in a fun way. The fair will include beach balls, sand art, coloring pages, fake snow balls, a photo booth, Swedish fish, photos with a mermaid, a sno-cone machine, sushi, a mechanical bull shaped like a shark and much, much more. Because of our collaboration with Metcalf, there will be a sun light to help boost happiness during the darkest months of the year. Metcalf will also provide information about SAD, which is valuable during the winter.”
If anyone does feel that they are experiencing any symptoms related to SAD or general depression, they are encouraged to visit Metcalf, as well as attend Swinter, where a variety of services are available to help treat the disorder.
“There’s a lot of novelty to Swinter, and I hope we can all engage in some somewhat childish summertime glee together. It will be a great way to destress and blow off steam. An event like this, in my mind, can also help bring some unity to our community and hopefully attendees will come out of our event with a greater sense of solidarity with their students, classmates, and friends who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder,” Hoyle said. “A tremendous number of Vassar students are impacted by issues of mental health, which is why I am so proud of Noyes for using our all-campus event to recognize, validate, and hope to help with those problems.”