Li­brary shines light on sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der

Ad­di­tion of lamps will also en­cour­age con­ver­sa­tions about men­tal health

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE -

The Hamil­ton Pub­lic Li­brary is shin­ing light on a men­tal health is­sue.

The li­brary this week equipped three of its branches with SAD (Sea­sonal Af­fec­tive Dis­or­der) lamps so li­brary users can use them for light ther­apy. For some peo­ple, light ther­apy of­fers relief from SAD.

Also known as win­ter de­pres­sion or win­ter blues, SAD is a mood dis­or­der in which peo­ple experience de­pres­sive symp­toms at the same time each year, usu­ally in the win­ter.

Karen An­der­son, di­rec­tor of pub­lic ser­vice, brought the idea for­ward af­ter hear­ing about a suc­cess­ful project in Ed­mon­ton that had been go­ing for three years. She looked fur­ther into it and found other ex­am­ples, as well, such as the Win­nipeg li­brary and more re­cently the Toronto li­brary.

The lamps are widely avail­able through re­tail­ers, usu­ally cost­ing $100

to $200. But that’s a lot of money for some peo­ple.

So An­der­son said the li­brary sees a role for it­self in mak­ing them avail­able to peo­ple who can’t af­ford them.

In other cases, she said, “We thought it would give peo­ple a chance to give one of th­ese lamps a try be­fore de­cid­ing whether to pur­chase one for their own per­sonal use at home.”

Dr. Lawrence Martin, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor in McMaster Univer­sity’s mood dis­or­ders pro­gram, said he thinks the idea is a good one.

“If the li­brary has them avail­able and peo­ple can read in front of one for half an hour a day, I think it is a novel ap­proach and they should be com­mended for do­ing this,” he said.

“It sounds very cre­ative, very in­ven­tive to me. All hail them.”

Martin said, “For a lot of peo­ple it works, and we don’t know ex­actly why.”

One in­ter­est­ing as­pect of this is that for some peo­ple it doesn’t seem to mat­ter where on their bod­ies the light is shone, he said.

As part of a pi­lot project, the down­town li­brary has two lamps, with Ter­ry­berry on the Moun­tain and West­dale li­brary hav­ing one each.

Li­brary users are free to use the SAD lamps like they would a com­puter. Twenty to 30 min­utes is rec­om­mended.

An­der­son said an­other ben­e­fit to hav­ing the lamps is “we’re also hop­ing it will en­cour­age con­ver­sa­tions about men­tal health.”

Bar­bara Mur­ray sits near the two sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der lamps in the main branch of the Hamil­ton Pub­lic Li­brary.

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