UK Weather: Winter Depression Charity SAD Association 'Inundated' With Calls

A charity that deals with winter-related depression says it has been inundated with inquiries during the appalling weather gripping Britain.

The Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Association said it had received an "unprecedented" nunber of calls after an "extraordinary year" of bad weather.

SAD can be a seriously disabling illness

Around 7% of people in the UK are affected by SAD, which is particularly acute from December to February.

This year, Helen Hanson of the SAD Association said she had been fielding inquires since July.

"We've had an absolutely unprecedented number of inquiries," she said.

"I'm dealing with something like this every day, which is quite unusual for this time of year. It should have stopped."

The freezing conditions show no sign of abating, with warnings that below-average temperatures could stretch well beyond Easter.

The Weather Channel said temperatures would be 4C below average for the first week of April.

It has left gloomy Britons dreaming of Spring, and venting their fury on the weather forecasters bringing the bad news.

Guy Roberts, a spokesman for the Samaritans, said: "It's fair to say the cold weather won't help. Nobody gets up in the morning and says: 'wonderful, it's cold, wet and damp - I feel great'."

However, he said there was no evidence so far of a spike in calls to the counselling service.

SAD is largely related to sunshine and daylight, rather than temperatures.

Symptoms include feelings of guilt and low self-esteem, negative thoughts, oversleeping, fatigue and irritability.

Hanson, who has lived with the condition for 23 years, said: "It's all about the seasons, and the disruption we are getting, with the swapping and changing of the seasons that we seem to be experiencing is having a knock-on effect.

"It happens on different levels. There is the low-level, normal human reaction, where you want to stay in and eat comfort food.

"Then there are people who really do notice the difference between summer light and winter light - then those who are really seriously affected and have strong depressive episodes.

"What might happen in the present conditions is people might be tipped over the edge.

"It's been a long, hard, grim winter and it started in July for sufferers of SAD.

"We have had masses of inquiries to the website. What's happening at the moment is that the winter is entirely prolonged."

On the plus side, the extra-long winter has made more people aware of the condition, she said.

"What I might call 'normal people' who are just pissed off with the incredibly dull weather, are tuned into SAD, so the awareness increases," she added.