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Green Bay woman advocates for mental health during winter months

Ryan SAD.png
Posted at 10:16 AM, Feb 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-13 23:50:41-05

GREEN BAY, WIS — Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC says around nearly 50,000 people died from killing themselves in 2017, and 100 people die by suicide every day.

Lola Skenadore was almost one of them.

"I was driving home and feeling like it wasn't going to get better," Skenadore said.

She had just picked up her 5-year-old son. When she got home, she took a bunch of sleeping pills and nearly over-dosed. Once she took the pills, she snapped, and realized she need to get help. At that time, however, all she focused on was ending her mental anguish.

"I panicked right after, right away, and at that time I knew it was a mistake," Skenadore said. "For some reason at that point, being a parent didn't really matter, being a friend or a whatever a list of things that I am, none of that didn't seem to matter."

This time of year, Skenadore says her depression feels worse. It has always been a battle, but when she looks outside and notices a gloomy sky and cold air, she often feels more depressed.

"If you are already feeling in a rough spot, struggling with that and then you go look outside and it's not any better. That doesn't help your mood at all," Skenadore said.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that comes an goes with the seasons. Some experts say if somebody is already experiencing severe depression, SAD can make it even worse.

"There are cases, as it is a form of depressive disorder, quite frequently those thoughts of suicide whether they are passive or active do correlate with a depressive disorder," said Erika Mangin, a mental health nurse practitioner with Bellin Health.

Mangin says SAD comes from a lack of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes people feel happy. People produce serotonin by being exposed to sunlight, something that during the winter is hard to come by in Wisconsin.

"The fact that we live in Wisconsin, we are further from the equator," Mangin said. "We are at a higher risk of this due to the decrease sunlight."

Mangin says the best way to treat SAD is by using a special type of lamp designed to mimic sunlight. She also recommends people struggling with depressive thoughts this time of year should try to enjoy things normally done in the summer, such as walking through a pack. She says that can help remind people about the fun things to do in the summer.

"Even on a gloomy day, go for a short walk, journal, use your light lamps," Mangin said. "Try and do something that might have brought you some joy and happiness in the summer."

Skenadore's advice for people struggling with suicidal thoughts is to seek treatment right away.

"It makes it extremely difficult with someone with depression to feel like there is hope, especially this time of year," Skenadore said. "I think finding a good support system, finding good resources, or whatever it's going to take is really important to get through these really dark months."

Here is a list of resources to help with mental health:

National Suicide Hotline available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255

The Brown County Coalition for Suicide Prevention holds meetings every Wednesday with people who have attempted or lost love ones to suicide.

Bellin Psychiatric Center:
Offers outpatient services for some cases