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Nothing to Be SAD About During Dark Days of Winter

December 03, 2017
McQuade Library this fall began offering two new light therapy boxes to help treat seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a type of depression that can occur as the days get shorter but light therapy affects brain chemicals that are linked to mood and sleep so it can ease the symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The light boxes are available to students, faculty and staff for use in the library for up to two hours at a time. Because light boxes can interfere with sleep patterns, they cannot be signed out after 4 p.m.

“The idea is to give students — or anybody who feels their mood is affected by the shortening of days — a way to deal with SAD,” said Katell Guellec, director of the Hamel Health and Counseling Center, who is teaming with library director Kathryn Geoffrion-Scanell to provide the light boxes. “You just sit there in front of the lamp while you do you work.”

There may be only a handful of college and university libraries in North America offering light therapy boxes, including Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, the University of Minnesota at St. Paul, and University of Alberta in Canada.

“I’m looking to reach students wherever they are and finding ways to get them thinking of their mental health, Guellec said.

In a separate initiative, the library is piloting a program to allow students to check out plants in order to warm the atmosphere of their dorm rooms, Geoffrion-Scannell said.

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  • Hamel Health director Katell Guellec, left, and library director Kathryn Geoffrion-Scanell teamed to start the light-box therapy initiative at Merrimack.
    Hamel Health director Katell Guellec, left, and library director Kathryn Geoffrion-Scanell teamed to start the light-box therapy initiative at Merrimack.

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