Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Grows as Hotline Calls Increase in Oklahoma

KTUL - December 4, 2023 6:46 am

As Fall ends and Winter begins, some people may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, where people experience mood changes as the season changes.

“When we first started, it was in July of last year, and we saw probably about 1500 to 2000 calls coming in,” said Heath Hayes, the Deputy Commissioner for ODMHSAS

Heath Hayes, the Deputy Commissioner for ODMHSAS, says that they saw that number increase as they invested more in their communications and advertising.

“To about three 3000- 3500 every month. Then, in January of this year, actually February this year, we did a Superbowl commercial with Kristin Chenoweth. And after that aired, we saw a steady increase,” said Hayes.

Hayes says they saw an almost 50% increase in people reaching out.

“People were consistently seeing it after on social media and on different YouTube ads and things like that. And so, about now we have around 5000 calls every month,” said Hayes.

He says that the number of phone calls indicates their efforts in spreading awareness but does not reflect which months people may be experiencing more mental health crises.

He says there’s a misconception that more people die by suicide in the winter months.

“Oftentimes, people make that association that during the winter months, more people are depressed or anxious or even die by suicide at higher rates. But that’s not necessarily the case,” said Hayes.

Hayes says that a significant driver of suicide completion is the loss of connection to family, friends, or something bigger or more than yourself.

“During the holiday seasons, there’s a lot more availability of, you know, churches and different gatherings and organizations doing holiday parties,” said Hayes.

He says there are more opportunities to connect during the holiday months.

“We see more suicide deaths by suicide in the summer springtime months,” said Hayes.

Hayes says that people can have suicidal thoughts at any time of the year.

“988 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Hayes.

Hayes says that more than 50% of the people who have died by suicide in Oklahoma have never been connected to a mental health service.

He says that getting connected to a mental health service, which is what 988 is, will significantly increase the chances of survival.


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