Diversity & Inclusion
Health / Nonprofits

Seasonal depression can make a bad winter worse: Delaware experts discuss

Dr. Nina Anderson, founder of TOVA Community Health, tackles the subject on her weekly TOVA TV web series along with social worker and counselor Tamara Sumpter.

TOVA Tuesday tackles seasonal depression. (Screenshot)

2020 has been a year that has caused anxiety even in people who don’t have a history of the condition, between economic anxiety, social unrest, political unrest and COVID-19 in general.

Now, as the days grow shorter and colder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — or seasons depression — is starting to take hold of people, right on schedule. Spring was just starting to break when the coronavirus hit Delaware in March, so we haven’t yet faced a full pandemic winter, but it could get very bleak.

Dr. Nina Anderson, a healthcare provider and the founder of TOVA Community Health on Greenhill Avenue in Wilmington, focuses primarily on patients with complex chronic conditions such as sickle cell disease as well as non-opioid pain management. But with a holistic approach that prioritizes patients’ well being, TOVA also offers mental health services, including virtual therapy sessions with social worker and counselor Tamara Sumpter, CEO of A Servants Heart.

As part of TOVA’s community outreach, Dr. Anderson and her team produce a weekly web series called TOVA Tuesday, where she discusses topics like navigating health insurance and pharmacy, with health-focused interviews, such as her interview with hip hop artist Biggs Mula, who lives with sickle cell disease.

Recently, Dr. Anderson and Sumpter did an episode on seasonal depression. Some of the symptoms Sumpter pointed out include fatigue, a feeling of hopelessness and a lack of motivation.

“Every once in a while you might have a lazy Monday, and that’s OK, but when it’s a prolonged, when you just can’t muster up the energy to [get off the couch],” she said.

You may stop cleaning your home, shopping, showering, cooking and even eating. At that point, they both say, it’s a good idea to contact your primary doctor to rule out potential underlying physical issues such as anemia, and get a referral to a therapist for a virtual appointment.



Unlike some other physical deficiencies that are related to diet, SAD sufferers may be suffering from a lack of light — something many people are getting less of during the pandemic already, as they shelter indoors.

Vitamin D supplements can help, but so can changing your light sources, especially if you live in a home without a lot of natural light. You don’t have to buy expensive specialized lamps: Your symptoms may improve by just replace your home’s light bulbs with LED bulbs — red-hued, when possible.

“One thing we’re learning is that a red light can help,” Sumpter said. “Even if you can get a red night light, when you move that white light out of there and replace it with red, it can really change your mood and give you a lot more energy.”

Dr. Anderson continues community outreach and awareness, including the James Faucett III Sickle Cell Awareness 5K, which went virtual this year. TOVA is also the recipient of six months of PPE for staff, patients and members of the community via the International WeLoveU Foundation, a South Korean charity that donates to causes globally.

Dr. Nina Anderson with baskets donated from the WeLoveU Foundation

Dr. Nina Anderson with baskets donated from the WeLoveU Foundation. (Courtesy photo)

“We had built a relationship with them,” Dr. Anderson said. “When they asked us what we needed, we said PPE,” noting that small medical practices don’t often receive such aid.

That PPE will help TOVA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, continue its community outreach, including a current effort to help pay utility bills for people who are struggling to keep up.

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