Library shines light on seasonal affective disorder
Addition of lamps will also encourage conversations about mental health
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.