In a Box Labeled Summer
The perfect storm at the end of a season.
Posted September 22, 2020
The official end of summer, September 22nd, served up, for many, “a stew of blues,” according to Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (Pawlowski, 2019).
Others, says Klapow, may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the hallmarks of which can be distressing and overwhelming, possibly interfering with daily functioning, as reported by the American Psychiatric Association. People with SAD experience mood changes and symptoms similar to depression: “The symptoms usually occur during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and usually improve with the arrival of spring. The most difficult months for people with SAD in the U.S. tend to be January and February” (APA, 2017).
Although the winter months aren’t here yet, anticipating post-holiday doldrums may now elicit a form of grief, something psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote about in defining five common steps of dealing with loss (Kellehear, 2009).
- Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
- Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
- Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will.”
- Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
- Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”
While such emotions may occur in full or in part—and even in a different order—they nonetheless resonate with many reluctantly packing up summer.
And, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year may be worse than normal. It has been well documented that a loss of routines coupled with a degree of social isolation leaves adults and children susceptible to malaise and melancholy.
A report issued last month by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform, revealed, “Americans have been living in a highly-prolonged state of unpredictability amid COVID-19. The consequence of this chronic stress, anxiety and depressive mood is the declining cognitive performance of the nation’s workers. According to the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, sustained attention, the driver of task completion, is down 31% in August when compared to February pre-pandemic. Planning, the capacity to make decisions and define strategy is down 15% since February” (Total Brain, 2020).
A similar index related to young people to be released by Total Brain and the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) will likely produce similar results.
Indeed, a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association says, “The COVID-19 pandemic may worsen existing mental health problems and lead to more cases among children and adolescents because of the unique combination of the public health crisis, social isolation, and economic recession” (Golberstein et al, 2020).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us more (CDC, 2020).
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can affect children and young people directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage can continue to affect them across their lifespan.
Some of the challenges children and young people face during the COVID-19 pandemic relate to:
- Changes in their routines (e.g., having to physically distance from family, friends, worship community)
- Breaks in continuity of learning (e.g., virtual learning environments, technology access and connectivity issues)
- Breaks in continuity of health care (e.g., missed well-child and immunization visits, limited access to mental, speech, and occupational health services)
- Missed significant life events (e.g., grief of missing celebrations, vacation plans, and/or milestone life events)
- Lost security and safety (e.g., housing and food insecurity, increased exposure to violence and online harms, threat of physical illness and uncertainty for the future)
This is additive to the startling pre-pandemic statistics offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which include the following (NAMI, 2019).
One in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year; 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14 and 75% percent by age 24; and suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people aged 10-34.
The perfect storm of declining youth mental health, a killer virus, and the end of summer may foretell a tough road ahead, at least until it’s time to unpack the box labeled summer and relive the benefits of the season, enumerated by Angela DeGenova for Odyssey. Those benefits include the water, the sun, clothes, being outside, concerts, friends, ice cream, camping, road trips, driving with the windows down, 4th of July, barbeques, tans, flings, sleeping in, tie dye, bonfires, summer activities, sunsets, and summer nights (DeGenova, 2016).
In the meantime, those suffering might find solace in the words of philosopher Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger—something better, pushing right back” (Maquet, 1958).
Back out of the box.
APA. (2017). What is seasonal affective disorder? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Depression. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affect… (20 Sept. 2020).
CDC. (2020). COVID-19 parental resources kit: ensuring children and young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being. Your Health. September 16, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/parental-re… (20 Sept. 2020).
DeGenova, A. (2016). 20 reasons why summer is the best season. Odyssey. April 18, 2016. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/20-reasons-summer (20 Sept. 2020).
Golberstein, E., Wen, H. and B. Miller. (2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and mental health for children and adolescents. JAMA Pediatrics. April 14, 2020. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2764730 (20 Sept. 2020).
Kellehear, A. (2009). Introduction to the 40th anniversary edition. In E. Kubler-Ross (Ed.), On Death & Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families (pp. vii-xviii). Oxford: Routledge. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation. https://www.ekrfoundation.org/5-stages-of-grief/5-stages-grief/ (20 Sept. 2020).
Maquet, A. (1958). Albert Camus: Invincible Summer. New York: Braziller.
NAMI. (2019). Mental health by the numbers. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers (20 Sept. 2020).
Pawlowski, A. (2019). August blues are real: how to cope with summer depression. Today. NBC Universal. August 16, 2019. https://www.today.com/health/august-blues-triggered-heat-nostalgia-end-… (20 Sept. 2020).
Total Brain. (2020). According to Mental Health Index: employees’ ability to focus attention and complete tasks down 31%. September 17, 2020. https://www.totalbrain.com/according-to-mental-health-index-employees-a… (20 Sept. 2020).