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Wednesday 22 February 2012

Stay Warm, Stay Well, Stay Safe – Don’t be SAD this winter


Throughout the winter, Cheshire East Council and its partner agencies in the Adult Safeguarding Board have been providing information and key contact numbers as part of its Stay Warm, Stay Well, Stay Safe campaign. This is intended to assist, reassure and empower its most vulnerable people by providing information at and through the local media.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can affect as many as a third of all people.

Also known as the ‘winter blues’, it is officially recognised by doctors as a medical condition and the Cheshire East Adult Safeguarding Board is urging anyone who is feeling unusually lethargic or depressed this winter to make contact with their GP.

People in the UK are more susceptible to SAD as they experience large changes in

light levels between the summer and winter.

They also experience periods of dark, gloomy weather which can reduce the amount of light received and so it therefore has a profound effect on body clocks.

A combination of a change in seasonal light, hectic lifestyles and the periods of darker days and poorer weather can have dramatic effects.

Councillor Janet Clowes, Cabinet member with responsibility for health and wellbeing, said: “Our Stay Warm, Stay Well, Stay Safe campaign features a range of information on numerous subjects including how to get help if people feel they are suffering with depression or lethargy.

“By visiting our website, we can point people in the right direction. Anybody who feels they are lacking in energy, are unable to carry out a normal routine or has sleep problems, finds it hard to stay awake during the day or is having disturbed nights should think about speaking to a health professional.”

Health professionals are in a good position to assess the nature and severity of any changes in mood and advise on the best course of action. Often just the opportunity to talk can provide relief and reassurance.

GPs are also in a position to refer people to experienced health care practitioners, counselling colleagues or to council and voluntary sector services that can help with a range of practical and social problems which may be contributing to increased anxiety and depression.

Other potential features of SAD include:

· Loss of libido, not interested in physical contact;

· Anxiety, inability to cope;

· Social problems, irritability, not wanting to see people;

· Depression, feelings of gloom and despondency for no apparent reason;

· Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, leading to weight gain.

Derek Thomas, the independent chair of the Cheshire East Adult Safeguarding Board, said: “For people who are already considered vulnerable, SAD can further increase this risk to them. We are beginning to understand much better the relationship between vulnerability to abuse and our mental health.

“A significant number of those who are referred to the Council’s safeguarding team as victims of abuse have long-term mental health problems but, in addition, we now realise that temporary episodes of physical or mental ill health, such as those caused by SAD, can lead to increased vulnerability.

“It is at times like these that people may be less able to protect themselves or seek help. It is therefore important that we all show more understanding to our partners, parents, friends and neighbours and show extra vigilance and willingness to report any concerns.”

Meanwhile, people in Macclesfield enjoyed a Stay Warm, Stay Well, Stay Safe road show event on Friday.

The Council’s housing team, Age UK, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and fire service colleagues joined forces to hand out information packs and make people aware of help that can be made available to protect them from the cold.

There are also events on the following dates:

· Thursday, February 23 – ASDA, Crewe (10am-2pm)

· Friday, February 24 – Booths, Knutsford (10am-2pm)

· Tuesday, February 28 – Ashfields Health Centre, Sandach (9.30am-12.30pm)

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