Many people think of depression, anxiety, and seasonal affective symptoms as mainly occurring during the fall and winter. Yet, they can flare during the summer, especially for children, teens, and college students. Summertime evokes thoughts of freedom from school, fun, long summer days, sunshine, and positive emotions. However, with unstructured summer days, school friends on vacation, junk food being more prevalent, sleep routine often different, and kids often spending hours a day playing video games or on electronics, summer can lead to and provoke mental illness.

School can provide a consistent schedule and routine and when kids have a purpose, such as school, their minds stay occupied and boredom is not as prevalent. When they go from being extremely busy to having little to do, often boredom results in depression, mood issues, and anxiety.

The solution to these issues is to provide somewhat consistent structure during the summer. Get involved with a sport, camp, club, volunteer, or get a job. It’s also crucial for children to adopt healthy summer habits and routines. They should get outside and enjoy the summer. Try to limit the amount of time online, watching TV, or playing video games. Being active improves their physical health and triggers endorphins, which support mental health and overall wellbeing. Kids will be happier, less restless, and more driven. Summer also presents a great opportunity for kids to investigate their interests, which is less open to them during the busy school year.

In addition, many parents evaluate whether they should still give children their medication for attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD. These medications are often prescribed during the school year, and depending on the severity of ADHD, many parents use summertime for a break off the medications. The medication break may not be easy and the combination of unmedicated ADHD symptoms and less structured days of summer can be very problematic for kids and parents. Attention symptoms can worsen and kids can experience mood changes. If medications do continue over the summer, make sure kids are taking them regularly because with less structure, compliance may not be consistent and this results in mental decline.

Adults can experience the same mental health issues as children during the summer, especially depression and anxiety. Adults often want to be more active, but limitations imposed by work and other obligations prevent them from doing so. This can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.

Use these tips to stay healthy and have a great summer!

Megan Stukenholtz