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News | Dec. 12, 2023

Highlighting Seasonal Affective Disorder and the Power of Morale Visits at Walter Reed

By Vernishia R. Vaughn

December is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Awareness Month, and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center remains an advocate for raising awareness. 
Walter Reed's clinical psychologist, Dr. Kalim A. Alcover-Pabon, reiterates the resources available to beneficiaries, adding how companionship plays a part in coping with SAD. 

SAD, often referred to as seasonal depression, is a recurrent seasonal pattern that usually emerges once winter commences. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), those affected by SAD may start overeating, oversleeping, and socially withdrawing, like animals hibernating. These symptoms can persist for about four to five months per year.

"The most important thing for people is understanding they need to get out. Get involved in social activities, self-care activities, time out in the sun (even when it is cold)," Dr. Alcover-Pabon shared. "Part of the problem during this time is the lack of exposure due to shorter days and the isolation due to cold temperatures."

In tandem with Dr. Alcover-Pabon's advice, Walter Reed and its external counterparts offer services and resources to enable beneficiaries to cope better. One example is the Walter Reed Adult Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic, where active duty service members can reach out. 

Service members and their families can also contact Military OneSource and Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) for assistance.

Alcover-Pabon also encourages anyone who thinks they may suffer from SAD to “reach out to a Walter Reed health care provider.” 

On top of the center's efforts to combat SAD through services and resources, during an interview, Alcover-Pabon agreed that "morale visits bring a unique sense of companionship needed during what could be challenging times for some."

A highlight of recent visits includes appearances by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and team members from both the Washington Capitals and the Washington Commanders, all contributing to uplifting the spirits of wounded warriors, patients, and staff at Walter Reed.

"Morale visits are a vital tool in combating SAD, offering much-needed moments of empathy, understanding, and support," shared Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Hann, Department Chief for the Warrior and Family Coordination Cell. "These few and brief visits contribute significantly to a supportive and resilient environment, boosting morale when it's most needed."

Hann also added she's privileged to witness the profound impact these visits have, and that each visit serves a unique opportunity to uplift spirits and make connections during challenging times. 

"It's an honor to serve those who have given so much and to be a part of their journey toward healing," continued Hann. "My goal is to lead initiatives that foster community and resilience for our hospital, Wounded Warriors, their families, and service members."    

For the Walter Reed team, morale-boosting and well-wish visits are pieces to the giant puzzle supporting and aiding those dealing with SAD, reminding them that help is always available. 

If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, available 24/7 at 988 for free and confidential support.

To learn more about services offered by the Walter Reed Behavioral Health team, visit

To learn more about how you can help yourself or someone you know cope with SAD, visit

For more information on the National Institute of Mental Health SAD brochure and fact sheet, visit
Don't forget to keep your family's information up-to-date in DEERS.