It’s Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Daylight saving time is coming fast. If you are like many, the thought of an extra hour of sleep seems glorious. Plus, the fall brings pretty colors, fun holidays, crisp air, and pumpkin spice lattes. For others, fall brings with it feelings of depression—seasonal depression.

This type of depression is called seasonal affective disorder or SAD – a type of depression that happens seasonally. Its symptoms usually last through fall and winter, about four to five months each year. For some individuals, SAD occurs in summer. However, this is not common. 

SAD is thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This imbalance happens when the days shorten and there is less daylight available. Being exposed to less daylight can throw off someone’s biological clock. Because SAD is linked to lack of sunlight, it is more common in areas that are farther from the equator. It is also more common in people with a family history of mood disorders.  

Symptoms of SAD are like symptoms of depression. People may feel sad, overly tired, and like they do not have energy. They might have changes in their appetite, weight, and sleep. They may feel agitated, restless, guilty or worthless. Concentrating might be difficult. They may isolate themselves from other people and no longer be interested in things they used to enjoy. They may also have thoughts of suicide or of dying. 

If you are experiencing mild symptoms of SAD, there are things you can do to cope. They include: 

  • Going outside and getting exposed to natural light 
  • Exercising regularly  
  • Keeping a healthy diet 
  • Regularly seeing family and friends 
  • Having hobbies that you do regularly 
  • Taking a Vitamin D supplement (people get Vitamin D from sunlight) 
  • Cutting down use of alcohol or drugs, which might make SAD symptoms worse 
  • Maintaining a routine around bedtime for better rest

For some people, these coping strategies may not be enough. If you are experiencing severe symptoms of SAD, you might consider: 

  • Contacting your doctor (primary care provider) to discuss your symptoms and ask for help managing the,
  • Working with a doctor to see if there is medication that might help 
  • Working with a doctor to see if light therapy might help 
  • Discussing seeking therapy to learn how to best cope with SAD.

For more information about SAD, see: 

About the Author: Jaymes Fairfax-Columbo, JD, Ph.D. is a clinical-forensic psychologist. He works with the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) serving individuals who have behavioral health issues and are involved in the criminal justice system.

Connection and Resilience in the Asian American Community

The Asian American community in Southeastern Pennsylvania is diverse. The Asian diaspora includes people with roots in countries like China, Korea, the Philippines, India, and Cambodia, just to name a few.

Whether they were born in the United States or immigrated, many in the Asian American community feel pressure to create an identity that is acceptable to both their family and this country. This issue has gotten more attention as violence against Asian American people has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, more people are in need of mental health support, says Dr. Noel Ramirez, psychotherapist and director of The Mango Tree in Philadelphia.

A Filipino-American, Dr. Ramirez works with a broad mix of clients, including multi-racial individuals, transracial adoptees, and people from across the Asian diaspora. Some are recovering from conflicts in their home countries. Some have internalized racial oppression. And others are addressing intergenerational tensions that often arise when cultural norms and expectations differ between parents and children. This usually happens when younger generations embrace modern American values that conflict with traditional Asian culture.

According to Dr. Ramirez, “We get folks who are struggling with navigating collectivism in a culture of individuality when the family is the focus. We get career changers who were told the only pathway to wealth was to be a doctor or engineer and that wasn’t their passion.”

Asian American: A Complicated Concept

According to the 2020 census, nearly 24 million people in the U.S. identify as Asian. “The concept of Asian American is complicated,” Dr. Ramirez says. “The first step is helping people develop language around their ethnicity. What does it mean to be Asian American? Korean-American actor Steven Yeun says that to be Asian American is not just having your foot in two different places; it’s a third space of identity.”

“Being labeled Asian American,” says Dr. Ramirez, “I’ve come to learn and appreciate all forms of Asian cultures in the U.S. because I’m lumped together with all of them. Even at The Mango Tree, the staff speak five languages. It’s a uniquely validating experience growing up in a pan–Asian community.”

Connecting with the Community

Being an active part of your community is one of the most important things you can do for your mental health, especially if you belong to a minority group, says Dr. Esther Hio-Tong Castillo. Dr. Castillo is the founder and former program director of the Chinese Immigrant Families Wellness Initiative at the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.

“With Asian Americans, there is a lot of invisibility,” she adds. “We’re seeing more Asian representation in different fields today, but it’s still lagging. As a mom of a 7-year-old, I have to go out of my way for my daughter to see herself represented in children’s books.”

According to Dr. Castillo, this lack of visibility makes it even more important to seek out culturally specific activities within your community. Creating strong connections builds resilience within the Asian American community.

“Some people feel they’re not Asian enough or American enough. The Asian community is so diverse ― immigrants, people who speak different languages, eat different kinds of food, have different immigration stories. Sometimes it’s hard to find out what it means to be Asian American. But the process of discovery and exploration will help individuals to improve their mental health.”

For information on local resources and events in the Asian community, visit:

For information on national resources in the Asian community, visit:

For more information about mental health, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit

The Impact of Social Isolation and Loneliness on Mental Health

In a time where we have near instant connections with people, it’s strange to think that as a society, some have never been lonelier. Loneliness is a subjective emotional state, often resulting from social isolation and lack of social connections, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Loneliness and social isolation can negatively impact mental and physical health. Some of these effects include depression, decreased quality of sleep, poor cardiovascular health, and decreased brain health or cognitive functioning.

Among older adults, chronic loneliness and social isolation are linked to a dramatically increased risk of dementia and accelerated cognitive decline (DHHS, 2023). However, the link between social isolation and both depression and anxiety transcend age, showing consistent results from children to adults (DHHS, 2023). Social isolation is a symptom of and a risk factor for depression and anxiety. Since depression is marked by symptoms including social withdrawal, lack of energy, and decreased motivation and pleasure, it can perpetuate social isolation. Conversely, social isolation can increase the risk of someone developing depression (DHHS, 2023).

The importance of increasing our social connection to combat loneliness and isolation

We are approaching the time of year where fall-onset seasonal affective disorder may begin to appear. In anticipation of the change of season, it is important to understand what we can do to increase our social connections in an effort to combat our subjective loneliness and perceived social isolation. By making a conscious effort to increase our social connections with others, we are directly increasing our overall health and well-being.

Social Connection

Social connection is not black and white, rather it is on a spectrum that changes throughout our lives. Furthermore, social connection is not simply how many people we speak to or interact with on a daily basis; much of it depends on the structure, function, and quality of our relationships (DHHS, 2023).

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2023), from 2003 to 2020, the amount of time spent in-person with friends declined significantly, especially among those between the ages of 15-24, with a reduction of almost 70 percent. When thinking about the role technology plays in the frequency and quality of our social connection, there are pros and cons. Technology brings people together and fosters a sense of community, especially for those in marginalized groups; however, it can also replace in-person engagement and reduce the quality of our interactions (DHHS, 2023).

To grasp the importance of social connection to our health, understand that lacking it is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes per day (!!!) (DHHS, 2023).

In order to increase our social connections as individuals, think about the following:

  • Understand the impact of social connection and social disconnection
  • Invest in your relationships by checking in with a friend or family member daily
  • Minimize your distractions
  • Support others within your community
  • Seek out various social groups
  • When struggling with loneliness, reach out to others for help

For more information on social connection visit Social Connection — Current Priorities of the U.S. Surgeon General

About the Author: Jessica Marcacci, M.S. is a psychotherapist at River Wards Wellness Collective located in Philadelphia (Fishtown). She sees both individuals & couples, focusing mainly on life stressors, relationships, emotions, self-worth, and anxiety.

The Mental Health Benefits of Pets

While there’s always a risk of scratched furniture or accidents on the carpet, the benefits of pet ownership on people’s mental health seem to outweigh the stresses. In a poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, 86 percent of pet owners said their pets had a positive impact on their mental health, and two thirds said that pets help relieve stress and anxiety, offer companionship, and provide unconditional love.

Pets can improve mental health in many ways. Caring for a living creature, maintaining a regular schedule, and spending time playing with a pet can improve well-being. Pets can reduce the effects of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When you’re stressed out, hugging an animal can provide calming support. Petting and playing with animals releases feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin.

Animals can have such a positive impact on people that many hospitals and rehabilitation centers incorporate specially trained animals, such as therapy dogs, into patient care plans. At Jefferson Moss-Magee Rehabilitation in Philadelphia, patients recovering from traumatic injuries or illness can work with Nigel, a 6-year-old trained Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, as part of their intensive inpatient rehabilitation.

An Encouraging Presence

“Nigel is there to help with patients’ therapy, but his presence does so much more,” says Peter DeLong, an occupational therapist at Jefferson Moss-Magee Rehabilitation, and Nigel’s working partner. “I have seen patients push themselves beyond what they would do with a therapist alone, simply because they are enjoying the interaction with Nigel. That energy turns into confidence and satisfaction, and I know our patients leave those sessions feeling better about themselves.”

On Drexel University’s campus, students adjusting to being away from home or trying to learn how to balance school, work, and other responsibilities can hug a 100-pound, four-legged friend every day of the week. Drexel Pet Therapy Program Coordinator Janine Erato owns, trains, and handles a family of three Cane Corso dogs: Espresso, Java, and Mocha Latte, all of whom are happy to provide friendship and support to students and faculty.

“It is heartwarming to see how our dogs can change students’ lives,” Erato says. “When students are having a bad day and see one of our dogs on campus, I see their faces light up, their shoulders relax, and watch them actively decompress with just a few minutes of pets and cuddles. You never know the kind of day someone is having, but I know the dogs help.”

Snuggles for Everyone

For those who can’t keep a pet but want to experience the mental health benefits of interacting with them, consider the following options:

  • Offer to help at an animal shelter
  • Foster an animal for short periods of time
  • Pet-sit for a friend, family member, or through a pet-sitting service
  • Volunteer with organizations or care facilities that have pet therapy programs

“Animals are incredible beings that have a strong sense of empathy and connection,” DeLong says. “They engage purely through love and support and just want to be around people. I recommend working with one whenever possible.”

For information on fostering an animal or volunteering with a shelter, contact Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), ACCT Philly, or the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA).

For more information about mental health, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit

Addressing Burnout in Health Care Workers

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers were celebrated as frontline heroes. They worked long hours, exposed themselves to illness, and witnessed death while somehow managing their own fears, stresses, and personal responsibilities.

But even for a profession characterized by empathy and dedication, the years of emotional losses and relentless demands have taken a toll on many health care workers.

Stressors Persist Post-Pandemic

Health care workers today face disproportionate rates of stress and burnout, putting them at greater risk of anxiety, depression, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide.

According to the AMN Healthcare Survey of Registered Nurses, the number of nurses who reported feeling “a great deal” or “a lot” of work-related stress grew from 65 percent in 2021 to 81 percent in 2023. Clearly, the support they felt during the COVID-19 pandemic has waned. And to make matters worse, a National Nurses United survey from late 2022 found that about 40 percent of nurses reported an increase in workplace violence.

Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. had been experiencing a nationwide shortage of health care personnel. That trend doesn’t look like it will be reversing anytime soon. A recent study predicts there could be a shortage of up to 450,000 bedside nurses by 2025. And by 2034, the country could also be facing a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians.

“We’re now operating in a mostly post-pandemic environment, but health care workers aren’t feeling much relief due to the impacts of staffing shortages,” said Diana Lehman, BSN, RN, MBA, vice president of Case and Condition Management at Independence Blue Cross (Independence). “Thankfully, many employers are sensitive to the mental health needs of their providers and are trying to address them where they can.”

From Federal Initiatives to Self-Care

To help address the high rates of burnout in health care workers, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has launched a Health Worker Mental Health Initiative that aims to:

  • Improve data, screening tools, training, resources, and policies to address health worker mental health;
  • Identify workplace and community supports for health workers;
  • Reduce stigma related to seeking and receiving care for mental health; and
  • Eliminate barriers to accessing care.

Hospitals are trying to combat nurse burnout by offering flexible schedules, including days off for mental health and wellness checkups. On the job, experts recommend breaks for food, drinks, and rest, as well as scheduling that gives staff adequate downtime at home between shifts.

Many health care workers recharge by spending time with family and friends. “My children are my form of self-care,” said Christina Milligan, CRNP, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Primary Care, one of Independence’s 2023 Celebrate Caring Winners. “They are my world, and when I can be focused on them and be present, the stress disappears. I also like to exercise.” Christina says she finds barre classes, a form of exercise that focuses on mindfulness, tremendously helpful.

Meditation, gardening, listening to music, journaling, and reading are other popular activities that can reduce stress.

For more information about mental health, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit

Community Conversations Podcast with Dr. Jill Bowen

Check out the “Community Conversations Podcast with Dr. Jill Bowen,” the Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS)! The monthly podcast is available on multiple platforms and discusses efforts to address Trauma, achieve Equity, and engage Community with community members and stakeholders from across the city. Click to listen: iTunes, Spotify, Google.

Older Adult Community Centers: Building Powerful Connections

Catherine Brown believes that her job saves lives, but she doesn’t work in an emergency room. As the Director of the West Oak Lane Older Adult Center in Philadelphia, Brown coordinates activities that help older adults connect with each other. Together with her staff, Brown encourages social interaction in a population that often feels alone.

Loneliness can affect your mental and physical health. Studies show that loneliness increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes. It increases your risk of stroke by 32 percent and your risk of dementia by 50 percent.

But the West Oak Lane Older Adult Center participants are too busy dancing, playing cards, shooting pool, and talking with friends to worry about that.

Older adult community centers help reduce loneliness. They offer a place to connect with others through a variety of fun, engaging activities. “Our place is beautiful and inviting,” Brown says. “People can check their issues at the door, come in, and have a good time. Having purpose every day, getting up and going to something you enjoy keeps the blues away.”

Something for Everyone

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation operates six older adult centers in the city. These centers are open to adults 55 years of age and older. On any given day, more than 100 people come to the West Oak Lane Older Adult Center. Each center has a schedule of activities that reflect the culture of the community. Brown encourages members to share their talents with each other and start clubs based on common interests.

“We have a sewing class where they make their own clothes. We did a Black History Month program where they made African head wraps and did a fashion show of what they made during the year. Some have started jewelry and crafting businesses,” Brown says.

The Next Part of Life

At work, people talk to each other, so connections form easily. But when people retire, those daily interactions are lost. For many older adults, retirement comes with different emotions. What often starts as excitement can turn to sadness, boredom, or loneliness. Brown adds, “If we’re not careful, that loneliness starts to feel heavy, like depression and its friend anxiety. We must get out and figure out what’s the next part of life.”

The West Oak Lane Older Adult Center helps people make new connections. “When people know that someone else cares, that someone literally has eyes on [them], they feel that [they are] going to be okay because [they are] interacting with another human. That in and of itself wakes up their happy, it wakes up their connection to others,” Brown says.

A Second Home

David Powell of Wyncote says the center gives him an opportunity to relax. “I am a Vietnam veteran, and I suffer from post‑traumatic stress,” he says. “So, it really helped my mental health a lot. You know, just being here around good people, happy people.”

Lafayette Daily, 91, of North Philadelphia agrees. “This is my second home. I just like the atmosphere. I like the folks here. It’s just a nice place to be.” He’s been coming to the center since 1997 and enjoys playing pool, cards, and checkers. “Coming to the senior center makes my day. Day in and day out. I just wish it was [open] more than five days [a week].”

Brown experienced first-hand the powerful difference the center can make on someone’s life.

“My mother was a beautician who had depression since childhood,” Brown says. “After a while, she stopped taking her medicine and bottomed out. I was able to bring her here and she came back around, got involved with chair exercise, and slowly but surely, she got her confidence back to drive. She went on a picnic, we played volleyball, and she sat at the card tables. After that, she would come on Mondays for lunch. So, when I say, ‘this place saves lives’, I know.”

Not Just Fun and Games

Older adult community centers are a lifeline for connection and support, with fun activities that can improve the physical, mental, and social well-being of older adults. Many centers also offer a wide range of services like meal programs, transportation assistance, public benefits counseling, and volunteer opportunities. Older adults can get more information about community centers in their area and the vital services they provide by checking out their state’s Department of Aging website.

For more information about mental health, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit

How I Know My Mind: Building connections in the barbershop

The barbershop doesn’t just make you look good — it can make you feel good, too. It’s a place where clients can find serenity, guidance, and comradery. During Minority Mental Health Month, barbers and clients from Da’ Thairapist Hairquarters in South Philadelphia discuss the impact of the Black barbershop on their mental health in a video for Independence Blue Cross’s (Independence) “How I Know My Mind” series. 

“How I Know My Mind” is an extension of the Know Your Mind mental health public health campaign. The series presents personal reflections from people throughout the Philadelphia region sharing what they do to promote their mental well-being. 

Independence launched Know Your Mind in 2020 to educate the community about symptoms of depression and anxiety and offer resources to support mental health.   

Read more in this blog and visit

Healing after Community Violence

Our connected world has made us more aware of community violence, and sometimes it feels like the world is getting more dangerous.

Statistics show that crime of all kinds in the U.S., including violent crime, showed substantial declines through the early 2020s. However, the homicide rate rose dramatically (34%) between 2019 and 2021. In the City of Philadelphia, homicides rose by 58% during that same period, reaching a record high of 562 in 2021.

Violence is a Public Health Issue

Violence devastates the families and loved ones of its immediate victims, but also sends shockwaves through whole communities. It can affect people’s health in far-reaching ways. It literally keeps people up at night. It can also:

Racial violence has even been shown to raise rates of pre-term births and low birth weight among infants. And when violence targets people just because of who they are, it doesn’t just traumatize the local community. It affects individuals’ mental health on a national scale.

There Are Things We Can Do to Address Violence Together

The causes of community violence are complex, and different communities are impacted in different ways. But there are proven solutions we can all get behind.

For example, cleaning up neighborhoods has been shown to significantly reduce gun violence. Removing trash from vacant lots, and planting grass and trees, not only reduces crime; it also helps relieve depression and anxiety in the community.

We can all support community-based violence interrupter programs, which have been shown to reduce shootings.

Folks who own guns can practice gun safety by keeping them locked up (free locks are available) and reporting missing firearms immediately.

If you want to talk to someone about gun safety, but don’t know what to say, here are some tips. And there are organizations that can help you say something anonymously if you’re worried that someone may perpetrate violence or self-harm at a school.

At Independence Blue Cross (Independence), we are part of the Coalition to Save Lives, which aims to address the violence crisis in Philadelphia. It identifies violence prevention programs that work and tries to replicate them here. You can learn more by watching this recent interview with the organization’s Executive Director and reading their report on evidence-based solutions.

We all dream of a world where we never have to worry about our safety, where so many lives are no longer cut short, and vigils and protests aren’t necessary anymore. And we should all be working to make that vision a reality. But as we do that, we must also take care of ourselves.

What Can We Do to Take Care of Ourselves?

1. Draw Strength From Your Community

Resist the urge to withdraw and isolate. Spend time in public spaces where you feel safe. Give comfort, and take comfort, from the people you care about. They may be having the exact same feelings as you do. There is power in voicing your thoughts and emotions, and it’s not healthy to keep them bottled up inside.

And watch for signs of emotional distress in your loved ones. Do what you can to support the people in your life, especially children. Encourage others to seek help if you think they need it.

2. Limit Your Exposure to Bad News

It’s important to stay informed. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay glued to the news or watch graphic videos. Create boundaries for yourself around consuming news about community violence. When you start getting anxious and angry, give yourself a break. Don’t go back to it until you’ve calmed down.

3. Prioritize Sleep and Exercise

Self-care starts with treating your body right. You need rest in order to cope well. Sleeping can be hard when your mind is racing, but there are things you can try to improve your sleep quality. Exercise is one of them, and it’s also a great stress reliever itself.

4. Practice Relaxation

There are lots of ways to relax besides exercising. Many people get great results from doing yoga and meditating. But relaxing can be as simple as pausing to breathe deeply, listening to music, cooking a meal, taking a walk, or creating something. Whatever works for you, that’s what you should do. For your own well-being.

5. Get Help

There are many resources to help individuals, families, and communities address violence and trauma impacting them, including:

Don’t Ignore Your Stress

If you’re having panic attacks or chest pains, regularly feel irritable, or are getting worried about your mental or physical health, it’s time to get help. Talk to your doctor and let them help you find the best solutions. Or reach out directly to a therapist.

Independence members can get connected with behavioral health specialists by searching our Provider Finder. They can also call the Mental Health number on the back of their member ID card to speak to someone who can help connect them to care.

Everybody Deserves to Be Safe From Violence

We shouldn’t just accept that community violence will always be part of our lives. As Alice Walker — the first Black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in Literature for her novel The Color Purple — said, “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

While reducing violence may seem impossible, we can have a safer world if we build it together. And that starts with taking care of ourselves and each other.

Rowing in Sync for Mental Health

On Monday evenings, as the sun sets on the Schuylkill River in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, you can see women in pink shirts and baseball caps rowing down the river in groups of two, four, or eight. Some are moving swiftly, while others are getting their bearings, guided by a coach in a skiff alongside them. All are part of WeCanRow, a national program founded in Boston in 2002 for breast cancer survivors.

WeCanRow gives these women the opportunity to become active participants in their cancer recovery. Together, they build strength, rediscover the joy of movement, and become part of a mutually empowering team. Rowing helps these survivors improve their physical and mental well-being.

WeCanRow – Philly

In 2018, WeCanRow – Philly found a home at the Whitemarsh Boat Club in Conshohocken. The group began with a handful of participants, facilitated by Dale Parenti, a Philadelphia-based graphic designer, rower, and breast cancer survivor. Today, the group has more than 30 active members of various ages and fitness levels who find the group physically and mentally energizing. Those who have no previous rowing experience find it easy to immerse themselves in the thrill of the sport. Learning something new seems to spark their energy and distract them from their diagnosis.

“When I was first being treated for breast cancer, I joined Hope Afloat, a dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors,” Parenti says. “I hadn’t exercised regularly in probably 20 years by that point. I was too busy raising children and building my career, and I didn’t prioritize myself or my body. Suddenly, exercising three times a week made a dramatic difference in my mental health. My mood suddenly lifted, and I felt like myself again. The team environment made it easy to commit to the regular exercise in a way that going to a gym on my own would not have.”

“A lot of breast cancer survivors often feel betrayed by our bodies when we are diagnosed with cancer, especially when we’ve taken good care of ourselves,” says Sue Ryan, PsyD, a psychologist in Collegeville and WeCanRow member. “When we row, we have to make friends with our body again. It gives us an appreciation of how our body works and how we can be in rhythm with others. When we have a good row together, it’s an exciting feeling. We also build friendships on the river and see others who may or may not have gotten through this journey with different issues. It gives you context.”

Well-being Beyond the Boat

Rowing as a team creates strong personal connections. According to Parenti, “the women of WeCanRow support each other on and off the water. Bonds form around the experience of being teammates and fellow cancer survivors. They learn to work as a team and realize they’re not facing any challenges alone.”

A cancer diagnosis can affect your peace of mind, so rowing can be a great distraction. “Rowing requires such focus and concentration that it’s not possible for the mind to wander,” Parenti notes. “Worries, stress, and fears are all left at the dock. Once you’re on the water, those problems are forgotten.” Of course, spending time in nature is good for your mental health. Being on the river, watching ducks swim by and birds land on the rocks, with the sound of oars slicing through the water can be therapeutic.

For many women, dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis is socially isolating. It changes how you see yourself in relation to others. Rowing helps breast cancer survivors improve their physical and mental well-being. With WeCanRow, the women learn how to support each other as rowers first, then as survivors. “Rowing gives us an identity other than being a patient,” Ryan says. “Our chant at the end — ‘We Can Row!’ — this is something we can do that is an identity apart from having had cancer.”

For more information about mental health, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit