• Matthew Ivan

MDHHS Offers Mental Health Resources to Combat Winter Blues


man leaning against wall looking distressed

LANSING, Mich. – As Michigan enters a second holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) officials are offering tips and resources to help Michiganders cope with winter, or seasonal, blues that are common at this time of year.


“The shorter, darker days of winter can be difficult for many people,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “This season often deepens anxiety, depression and feelings of grief or isolation – especially after everything we’ve experienced these past two years. It is always okay to ask for help, and our department has resources available.”


Dr. Debra Pinals, MDHHS medical director for behavioral health and forensic programs, observed residents are feeling the emotional strain of prolonged pandemic distress.

“People are struggling with the exhaustion of how long we have been dealing with this pandemic, and they’re worried about what will happen in the future,” Pinals said. “We generally see an uptick in depression and grief during the winter months, and COVID-19 certainly isn’t helping. The winter blues is a spectrum of mental health conditions. It can range from simply feeling out of sorts or lonely to full-blown clinical depression with suicidal thoughts. We need to remind ourselves that self-care is critical and to give ourselves permission to take time for ourselves. Suicidal thoughts should not be ignored. People who do reach out for help are generally grateful for the support in getting through a difficult time.”


MDHHS offers the following tips for those suffering from winter blues:

  • Stay active, even if it is doing small things each day.

  • Eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep.

  • Keep a schedule and try to get fresh air every day.

  • Try to find a small pleasure for yourself within each day.

  • Avoid using too much alcohol and avoid drugs.

  • Create a buddy system to have someone you can call when you feel down.

  • Set boundaries on how you want to spend your time in a way that works for you. Be respectful of others who may want things from you, but remember to take care of yourself.

  • Seek professional help if you need it.

For a free, confidential conversation with a trained Stay Well crisis counselor, dial 888-535-6136 and press “8” at the prompt. The phone line is open 24/7 for any Michigan resident.

Visit Michigan.gov/StayWell to locate the nearest community mental health services program office, register for a virtual support group or access helpful brochures and recorded webinars.


Residents in Oakland County and the Upper Peninsula can get free, 24/7 behavioral health crisis triage, support, resource information and referral to local services through the Michigan Crisis and Access Line (MiCAL). Call or text 844-44-MICAL (844-446-4225). Chat is also available through Michigan.gov/MiCAL.


Michigan residents with serious mental illness or substance use challenges wishing to speak with someone who understands these issues can call the Michigan Warmline at 888-PEER-753 (888-733-7753). The service is available from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

If you or a loved one is concerned about suicide, call 800-273-8255 or visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.

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