Noyes House Team fights winter blues with event series

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courtesy of Noyes House

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.”

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