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The Effects of Summer Heat on Mental Health 

Summer…the sun, the fun, the warmth and the heat. It seems like that’s all you hear as soon as the first snows start to melt. It’s a traditional time for vacations. School is out for families. Flexibility and relaxation are the name of the game.

However, for some people, summer is not fun. Research shows that summer heat is correlated with increased emergency room visits and hospital admissions for mental health issues. So, the question is, why? If summer is so warm and relaxing, why are there so many problems with people’s mental health?

There a lot of different reasons that summer, and the heat that comes with it, can be a big concern for mental health issues. Changes in schedules and routines that come with vacations and school breaks can lead to feeling overwhelmed and out of control, more than usual in some in cases. It can also mean parents have no break from the kids when school is out. Parents can quickly become exhausted. Kids who have lost their routines and structure from school might be anxious and can have more behavior issues.

Additionally, some medications, especially mental health medications, have specific warnings about being in the sun, heat, or fluid consumption to avoid dehydration, as well as warning about not drinking alcohol. This can be a lot to remember and can cause feelings of isolation. It also puts the spotlight on someone’s private health issue. A lot of people feel uncomfortable having to discuss their medical issues with friends and co-workers.

Summer heat also can mean less clothing…shorts, short sleeves and bathing suits. For a person with body image issues, being overweight or underweight, or someone with self-harm scars, this can be literally terrifying. The pressure to be outside and socialize more in the summer can also be very scary for someone with mental health issues. Additionally, if the above issues cause someone to isolate more, it can affect normal routines and make support systems less available. 

Memories of less than ideal childhood summers may also be a problem for a lot of people struggling with mental health issues. Summer is supposed to be a carefree time, at least that is what movies and television want us to believe. But for many, summers took them from the safety of a school environment and put them at home more with abusers, unstable parents, food insecurity, access to drugs and alcohol, and less accountability. People who have not worked through these triggers with professional help may not be aware that summer itself is the trigger of the decline in their mental health.

We can’t avoid summer. It comes every year whether we want it to or not. There can even be a seasonal-type depression associated with summer just like there is with winter. Some of the signs to watch for can include weight loss, minimal appetite, anxiety, irritability or insomnia.

So how can a person cope with the inevitable summer and all that it brings? Do your best to make a summer routine. Even if your normal routine is disrupted for a few months, get a new one started as soon as possible which includes some exercise, outdoor time (early or late in the day when its cooler and out of the direct sun). Drink plenty of hydrating fluids that are not filled with high levels of sugar. Wear cool, loose fitting, cotton clothing. Keep a healthy sleep schedule. Limit or abstain from alcohol consumption. Do not use illicit drugs.

Most importantly, do not isolate. Start a conversation. Talk to your doctor or mental-health professional if you have new or worsening problems with any part of your physical or mental health, including any restrictions your prescriptions might have as it relates to summer activity. NEVER STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICATIONS WITHOUT DISCUSSING WITH YOUR DOCTOR.

At Pathway Healthcare, we have medical doctors, psychiatrists and licensed counselors who care about your well-being. We do our best to help you discover the source of your depression, anxiety, or other mental health condition(s), identify triggers, and find solutions to help you feel better. There is hope.

We have 14 locations in 4 states (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas) and have appointments available now. Call today 844.728.4929 or visit www.pathwayhealthcare.com.

Author: Shelly Southworth, BSN RN 

References 

Stivanello, E., Chierzi, F., Marzaroli, P., Zanella, S., Miglio, R., Biavati, P., Perlangeli, V., Berardi, V., Fioritti, 

A., Pandolfi, P. (2020) Mental Health Disorders and Summer Temperature –Related Mortality: A Case Crossover Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(23)9122 https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/23/9122 

Discoverymood.com/blog/mental-health-during-the-summer/ 

Letstalkstigma.org/staying-mentally-healthy-summer/ 

Thekimfoundation.org/summer-mental-health/ 

Themighty.com/2018/05/summer-hard-mental-illness/

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