New ways for treating SAD: seasonal affective disorder.

With shorter days, sunlight scarce, many of us respond by planting ourselves in front of the TV or simply pulling the covers up over our heads. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a category of depression that emerges mostly during long winter months. Symptoms may begin in the fall when we shift our daylight saving clocks, but some may even experience a spring/summer version.

Several factors appear to influence the condition. The reduction of sunlight in winter can throw your biological clock off and reduce levels of serotonin (a brain chemical that regulates your mood) and melatonin (a chemical which regulates sleep and mood). If you’re young and female, you are at an increased risk for SAD.

Any of us can feel sluggish or unmotivated during a Michigan winter but if your symptoms are causing disruptions in your life, persist for days at a time, you notice shifts in sleeping or eating, are withdrawing socially, or activities that usually boost your mood don’t work, then it’s time seek help.

If you’re already experiencing symptoms of SAD, seeking treatment can help prevent them from becoming worse. You can schedule an appointment with a behavioral health professional by visiting A virtual consultation can be an invaluable option in helping identify patterns in negative thinking and behaviors, learning positive ways of coping with symptoms, and initiating relaxation techniques that can help you restore lost energy.

Asking for help is a first step toward a better version of yourself. You can start managing SAD today and live healthier in every season by simply visiting

This flu season, don’t be the victim.

We’re officially in 2019’s flu season. According to the Center for Disease Control, 24 states are now classified as having widespread flu issues. Flu activity generally increases each year in October, peaks from December to February, and persists into May.

Last year’s flu season was particularly bad, resulting in almost 49 million reported illnesses and more than 79,000 flu-related deaths. While these statistics might worry you about what’s in store this year, it’s impossible to predict what each new flu season will bring. However, it’s speculated that one of the major reasons for last year’s epidemic impact is that not enough people were vaccinated.

Best step for you: get a flu vaccine. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated against the flu. Concerns about how effective the vaccine is — or isn’t — shouldn’t deter you. No flu vaccine is 100 percent effective but if you and everyone around you are vaccinated, your community starts to develop what is referred to as a herd immunity, which helps keep everyone healthy — especially young children and the elderly, who are especially susceptible to the virus.

What’s different about this year’s vaccine? The 2019 vaccine protects against four strains of the flu virus, while past years’ vaccinations protected against only three. The vaccine provides protection against two strains of influenza A (the type that usually causes more severe illness) and two strains of the influenza B. In addition, the vaccine has been updated to better protect against the strains of virus currently circulating.

What if you already have the flu? It’s important to see your doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Antiviral medications are available to help reduce symptoms, shorten the duration and prevent complications. But remember, they’re most effective when taken within two days of the onset of flu symptoms. See your doctor for a flu vaccine or if you already have symptoms and can’t get out, consider visiting You can quickly set up an online visit with an Ascension or Trinity Health provider to help diagnose and treat the flue including filling prescriptions.

Overcoming a stigma status for behavioral health with virtual care.

Making behavioral health a priority is easier said than done. From stigmas surrounding mental illness to lack of affordable and accessible care, there are often multiple health care obstacles for people to get the help they need. However, with resources like apps for self-care and virtually enabled care, technology is helping to make behavioral health care more accessible for everyone.

Those suffering from behavioral health disorders are recognizing that virtual care can often be a highly effective solution. Statistics show that nearly 42 million Americans have anxiety disorders and more than 16 million suffer from major depression. But most haven’t received treatment in the prior year. That’s problematic because in the U.S., a majority of those with a behavioral health issue also have other chronic health conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes. For people dealing with multiple conditions, a single point of virtual access to answers for their health care needs can ultimately mean improved outcomes through better care coordination.

The initial steps of knowing who to ask for help as well as how to ask can be difficult. Thankfully, technology is now helping people take those first steps with the emergence of virtually enabled care.

Much of virtual care’s appeal lies in accessibility and convenience. Treating behavioral health becomes easier, less costly and less stigmatized when treatments can take place in a virtual setting. Getting care from the privacy of one’s home removes a major hurdle that many have struggled to overcome.

To find out more about how you or a loved one can get help for behavioral issues virtually, visit an Ascension provider at,

Together Health Network Launches Virtual Care Website

Woman receiving virtual care on her phone
Michigan’s largest clinically integrated network makes accessing its care network easier.

Southfield, MI –January 24, 2019, Together Health Network ( Southfield-based Together Health Network now offers another way for patients to easily access their statewide clinically integrated network 24/7 at

According to Together Health Network Vice President of Information Technology, Alex Veletsos, “Virtually enabled care – is allowing more patients access to care whenever and wherever they need it. Virtual care will and is being used in conjunction with physicians and nurses as an essential part of the way we deliver healthcare.”

Together Health Network’s new microsite can be viewed at Prospective patients can see how virtual care is instrumental in reimagining health care in Michigan via urgent care services, behavioral health or elder care. With things like video conferencing, remote patient monitoring and consultations via your smartphone, physicians and their patients are now more engaged and empowered to provide and receive the health services.

About Together Health Network
Together Health Network’s objective is to improve both health and care for Michigan residents by facilitating relationships within its network of physician organizations, health systems, insurers, patients, and health providers. At the core of Together Health Network’s culture are clinicians connected by a common purpose and meaning; they lead with a team-based care approach, which is based on a shared commitment and vision of positive outcomes. It is estimated that 75% of Michigan residents are within 20 minutes of one of the network’s 40 hospitals and thousands of ambulatory centers and physician offices. For more information, visit


Woman having trouble sleeping
More than one-third of American adults do not get enough sleep on a regular basis according to the Center for Disease Control. In fact, it’s now a public health epidemic, with research linking a lack of shut-eye to a number of health-related problems. Cognitive functions can be impaired, making us more likely to overreact. Our emotional intelligence is degraded, so we’re also more likely to be irritable. There’s even research connecting sleep deprivation to mental health problems and depression.

Commonly referred to as insomnia, sleep issues can be caused by difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or waking up too early in the morning. Insomnia is rarely an isolated medical or mental illness but rather usually a symptom of another illness. It’s therefore no surprise that how well we sleep has direct impact on physical and mental health. Sleep problems can often be a common symptom of various behavioral illnesses, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

As many of our Ascension and Trinity Health physicians will attest, sleep deprivation can be associated with numerous health issues. Research shows that not getting enough sleep, or getting poor-quality sleep, increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

One convenient alternative for the chronically shut-eye challenged, is virtual behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy can help control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that might be what’s keeping you awake. Virtual care is an easy step you can take to get professional assistance. Simply visit to begin exploring counseling options.

Handling post-holiday depression.

Holidays are often a time for celebration and reconnecting with family, friends, and faith. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, TV specials, music, and ads remind us it’s the “most wonderful time of the year.” However, the holidays can be a difficult, stressful time for many people. Those responsible for planning, shopping cooking, and preparing for the holidays – men and women may feel the burden of increased demands, and difficulty meeting expectations.

People with depression who are already struggling with sadness and fatigue may feel worse during the holiday season. Also, the season’s abundance of rich food, sugar, and alcohol can lead to overeating and drinking as copying mechanisms that can worsen symptoms.

Managing depression during or after the holidays requires a plan. Managing demands on time and energy, identifying stressors, and setting realistic expectations can all help. It’s also important to remember that physical wellbeing can affect mood and mental health. To the extent possible, eat healthy food, moderate alcohol consumption, and get some exercise.

Signs of depression include feelings of sadness, worthlessness or guilt, crying, loss of interest in usual activities, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, social withdrawal, and changes in sleep, weight, or appetite. If these symptoms are severe or continue beyond the holidays, consider reaching out for professional help.

Together Health Network offers convenient and easy access for speaking with behavioral health specialists and licensed therapists via behavioral health virtual services at

Stacey Duncan-Jackson, RN, MPA

Director Population Health, Together Health Network