Sarah Hamid-Balma, with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s B.C. division and provincial coordinator for Beyond the Blues suggests planning ahead for indoor activities or a new hobby to improve mental health during the winter. (THE NEWS files)

Sarah Hamid-Balma, with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s B.C. division and provincial coordinator for Beyond the Blues suggests planning ahead for indoor activities or a new hobby to improve mental health during the winter. (THE NEWS files)

Beyond the Blues to help the winter blues in Maple Ridge

Older adults have a higher risk for depression and anxiety over the winter months

Are you suffering from the winter blues and don’t know what to do about it?

The inaugural Beyond the Blues awareness campaign for older adults is being held in Maple Ridge.

Beyond the Blues: Education and Screening Days is a drop-in campaign to educate people about depression, anxiety, mental well-being, as well as mental health problems. It has been held across the province for the past 22 years and this year Maple Ridge will be one of 70 locations hosting the event.

To date, the free event has helped 93,000 people with their concerns about mental health.

“We’ve been hearing a lot from seniors about increasing concerns about anxiety and panic attacks, which is very common in all populations. But it is a little different when you get older,” said Heather Treleaven, with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie Seniors Network.

Less daylight hours and colder temperatures keeping people inside are known to contribute to seasonal depression and anxiety. There maybe also a reluctance to get help and resources, explained Treleaven.

One tip to improving mental health at this time of the year is tweaking your routine. Routines are healthy, but some people may benefit from a change of scenery or a better way to deal with bad weather and darker days.

Sarah Hamid-Balma, with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s B.C. division and provincial coordinator for Beyond the Blues, suggests planning ahead for indoor activities or a new hobby. And if this involves others, even better, she says.

Another tip is planning for outdoor time during daylight hours, like a quick walk with a friend.

Hamid-Balma also says that getting more face-time with people by using social media, texting and video calling to enhance rather than replace face-to-face interactions contributes to healthier mental well-being.

Finally, drink more water and less caffeine. Water replenishes brain cells, helps with concentration and gives you more energy. Caffeinated drinks tend to dehydrate a person, make them more anxious and reduce the quality and quantity of sleep.

Nadine Jans, founder of Uptimize Coaching, Couselling and Training, will be giving a talk at the event about anxiety and panic attacks, what causes them and some simple strategies for coping with them.

The clinical counsellor says there are true differences between depression with older adults and younger people.

For one thing, she says, depression has more than one cause and with older adults it is often more difficult to identify what that cause is. Jans recommends staying in touch with friends and family and for older adults to consult with their doctor for vitamin D supplements. Jans also says that depression tends to come on gradually with older adults and often the symptoms are overlooked or labeled as a normal part of aging. Depression can vary in intensity, she says, and last for a long time, but it affects many people and is nothing to be ashamed about.

Resource referrals will be available at the event for people who want more counselling and in-depth help.

“It will be a great contact point for somebody looking for more help,” said Treleaven.

There will be games and giveaways, and clinicians will be available to do some basic screening exercises for depression and anxiety.

“So, if people aren’t sure what their areas of concern are, there’s some questions that the clinicians will go through and give you some feedback and some support to take information to your doctor if you would like to get more help,” Treleaven noted.

“It’s just really an introduction to this area of support and finding out what’s available in your community,” she added.

Beyond the Blues takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Maple Ridge Public Library, 22470 Dewdney Trunk Rd., Maple Ridge

• To register, contact Heather Treleaven at 604-786-7404. The free event is drop-in, registration gives organizers a better idea for refreshments.