The coldest month since the Depression causes emotional depression as well

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MIDTOWN (PIX11) -- Everybody knows it's been cold, but the low temperatures the New York area has seen this month are the lowest we've had since the Great Depression.

Ironically, the effect of the bitter cold, coupled with more snow on the way this weekend, have a depressing effect on mood and general mental health. As people try to cope with the extreme weather, there's also a need to overcome the emotional effect it can have.

An aerial view of the region shows that Friday's record low 2-degree temperature resulted in most of the Hudson and East rivers below the George Washington Bridge being covered in ice. Above the bridge, the Hudson and Harlem rivers had chunks of ice all the way across their surfaces.

It's why the U.S. Coast Guard calls this the worst ice breaking season in a decade. It's also why ferry service on the East River was suspended.

Over to the west of Manhattan, on the Hudson, the ferries that were able to run did so with delays of at least half an hour, and Circle Line tourist vessels canceled all trips on Friday.

"They won't be going out because of the ice," said Cliff Walker, a tourist from Northamptonshire, England, minutes after he and his wife, Jocelyn, learned that they were not going to get to take the sightseeing cruise they'd purchased months in advance. "They can't move," Ms. Walker said.

"This is, like, totally like a shock for me," said Leee Anantawat, a tourist from Bangkok, Thailand, where it was 81 degrees and partly sunny on Friday.

Anantawat said the field of bright white ice as far as the eye could see was unbelievable for her. Her fellow tourists from colder climes agreed.

"Never thought we'd see the river frozen," said Jocelyn Walker, the British tourist. "Never see it in England. Seen it in Lapland, haven't we?"

Lapland, the northernmost region of Scandinavia, above the Arctic Circle, was the closest comparison she could make to icy New York City on Friday. As it turned out, towns in Lapland were averaging temperatures 20 Fahrenheit degrees above those in New York Friday morning.

"Our latest research, which is pretty much clinched," said Michael Schlacter, chief meteorologist of long-range weather forecasting firm Weather2000, "shows that New York City will have its coldest February since 1934."

That month, the coldest ever recorded in New York, was during the depths of the Great Depression. But it's a different kind of depression that the record low temperatures and forecasted weekend snowstorm bring about.

"I have patients who are seriously, actually asking about anti-depression treatment," said psychologist Robin Kerner, PhD, "because they're feeling so down and blue."

Kerner is one of the country's foremost experts on seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. "When we hit March," she said in an interview with PIX11 News, "the days do get longer and we do get more sunlight, but the cold may be here a litle bit longer than that."

Schlacter, the long-range meteorologist, confirmed that.

"If you're happy with just getting away from sub-zero wind chills, we obviously have some light at the end of the tunnel here," he said. "But if you're looking forward to [temperatures in the ] 50's and 60's, which we should be in March, there's nothing like that for quite some time."

In the meantime, "try to stay active," Dr. Kerner recommended. She said that exposure to sunlight, in whatever way possible, including trying to be near windows during the daytime, can be helpful in coping with the effects of SAD.

Most of all, Kerner emphasized that spring inevitably will come, and in the four weeks until it's arrival, "Bear with it," she said. "Try to sleep well, try and get some exercise."