Professor Hester Parr, from the University of Glasgow’s School of Geographical & Earth Sciences, is principal investigator of the Living with SAD research project

I’M writing this piece on a morning when the sky turns a dark black, and then orange, before what feels like a period of biblical rainfall. In Glasgow, cars and buses are struggling through deep surface water, with some roads becoming impassable.

This weather seems appropriate as the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh launch a recruitment drive for people who feel themselves affected by winter light, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), to join a series of free outdoor creative workshops to explore the condition.

Some argue that Scotland is characterised by stoic cultures of endurance when it comes to our collective mental health, and as a result, winter feelings of depression might be understood as simply part and parcel of what it is to live here.

In an age of public mental health messaging constantly crying out to destigmatise mental health challenges and new kinds of awareness about anxiety and depression, where is talk of SAD beyond conversational exchange about the weather and predictable tabloid media articles about "winter blues"? Why do some think the detail of low winter mood is either not quite authentic or alternatively something so ordinary that it does not warrant discussion nor intervention?

These questions, amongst others, are being asked by a new group of interdisciplinary researchers. Unlike for other pronounced mental health problems, there is no representative charity or advocacy organisation currently operating in the UK following the demise of the UK’s Seasonal Affective Disorder Association. GPs are differentially aware and sometimes sceptical of the clinical criteria for diagnosis and treatment, despite the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ acknowledgement of SAD’s reality.

By taking seriously people who feel distinctly light-affected and moderately or severely depressed by winter, we are not only paying attention to their need for recognition, and even community, but are also thinking about our collective future public mental health.

As our climate changes, we have seen global examples of what some call "smoky skies": forest fires burning for months and thus restricting the light; unrelenting heat meaning a retreat to be indoors, in shade, away from sunlight; and unusual and prolonged periods of excessive rain and cloud. Many who work the land in Scotland comment on a new uncertainty of seasonal weather to which they must increasingly adapt.

It seems that there is more risk than ever of our seasonal calendar and seasonal sensibilities becoming disrupted over the coming years. In this scenario, SAD might therefore be everybody’s business. In researching SAD, we are also researching our future public mental health. Preparing Scotland for lowering light and changing seasons seems critical and necessary. We may have to learn to live in winter and other seasons differently, in new ways, and people with SAD have much to teach us about how to manage the impacts of this psychological and emotional challenge.

If you experience significant symptoms of winter low-mood and SAD, free public research workshops are happening in Glasgow from October 29 throughout this winter: