The days grow shorter as the leaves on trees shift from vibrant green hues to bright yellow and orange tones. This shift in foliage color signals not only the transition back to the rainy season and our world-renowned gray skies, but also points to that time of year when the absence of daylight inevitably leads to seasonal affective disorder. I notice it every morning as I awake to darker skies and stare, half-awake, at the pale-brown visage that is reflected in my mirror.
I count myself among the many people of color in Western Washington who must engage in this annual ritual. It feels that the blue light lamps and a daily vitamin D regimen can only have so much of an impact. Similarly, the obsession with being outdoors at all costs can only fend off the seasonal blues for hours at a time before some heavy cabin fever sinks in. I would say that this is very much a reflection of our current reality. Seasonal affective disorder is one ingredient in this soup, and we must also look at other factors that compound, creating a gross, multi-layered onion of moodiness.
A report from the American Psychological Association entitled “Stress in America 2020,” published this month, shows how the cumulative effect of the pandemic, the upcoming election and overall uneasiness over current social conditions is negatively impacting peoples’ psychological well-being. This is especially true for communities of color. As the report notes, our youngest generation is perhaps experiencing the brunt of this stress.
Nearly 8 in 10 adults in a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the APA identified the pandemic as a significant source of stress. Similarly, overall, 1 in 5 adults report that their mental health is worse off compared to this point last year. Social isolation, uncertainty about the future and concerns about economic wellbeing also factor into the overlapping stressors that appear to be taking a toll for many. This is, of course, compounded by structural violence and impediments to a higher quality of life for poor people and people of color.
It goes without saying that the administration’s lack of support and continued framing of a global pandemic as a malady from China has helped proliferate violence against Asian communities. Furthermore, at the national scale, those who bear the brunt of this pandemic are also those who have not only had poor access to medical insurance, but also face outright institutional violence through state repression and police misconduct.
And of course, in this state and in King County, Latinx people have the highest rate of COVID infection. It is time to acknowledge our reality. Seasonal depression is worse this year.
Read more of the Oct. 28 - Nov. 3, 2020 issue.