Brenda Hora

Brenda Hora

SAD lamps battle depression at Vernon hospital

Some light is being shed on a common winter challenge in the North Okanagan.

Some light is being shed on a common winter challenge in the North Okanagan.

The Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation has purchased 15 seasonal affective disorder (SAD) lamps for Interior Health Authority community facilities.

“The lamps will benefit many clients who would otherwise have limited access to this type of treatment,” said Sue Beaudry, VJH Foundation director of development.

Seasonal affective disorder is the formal name of a type of depression that occurs during the winter months associated with the shortening day light.  Treatment for SAD consists of light therapy, also known as phototherapy, in which the patient is exposed to an artificial intense bright light source. Exercise and getting outdoors can also be helpful.

“Unfortunately, light therapy requires lamps that emit far more lumens than the customary incandescent bulbs, which makes them much more expensive than a household lamp,” said Beaudry.

The SAD lamps will enable mental health clients to access light therapy in their own homes.

Dr. Fiona McGregor, a psychiatrist, has been treating patients with light therapy since the early 1990s.

“I started to notice a pattern in the homes I was visiting, that I was writing far more prescriptions for antidepressants during the fall,” she said.

“Symptoms tend to begin after the time change in November and subside in April.  Common symptoms are low mood, carbohydrate cravings, over-sleeping and social withdrawal which can be quite debilitating.”

SAD lamps are believed to affect brain chemicals such as melatonin that play a role in determining mood changes.

“The lamps are functionally designed for use while taking part in activities such as eating or reading and work best when used in the morning,” said McGregor.

Programs benefiting from the SAD lamps include participants in early psychosis intervention, mental health housing and semi-independent living programs in Vernon and Lumby.