BY MICHELLE SMITH
The holidays should be the most wonderful time of the year, but sometimes Christmas can be the time of year that people experience a high incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report high incidences of suicide and attempted suicide. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression. For some people, they become depressed at Christmas and even angry because of the excessive commercialization of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on “perfect” social activities. Others get depressed because Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life (and a “victim” mentality) in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more. Still others become anxious at Christmas because of the pressure (both commercial and self-induced) to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt. Other people report that they dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas, because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs. So what should you do, if you’re among those who get depressed at Christmas?
Mental illness or as I like to call it challenges with mental wellness can leave both adults and young people feeling even further adrift. Meanwhile, you can’t always tell by looking at a person. Keep in mind that adults and young people are suffering in our own communities. Like some adults, youths struggle with sadness in the holiday season. Maybe their parents have recently divorced, maybe they have lost a parent or grandparent or someone close to them and maybe they are a victim of a bully or cyberbully. Remember youths are not good at communicating Parents/Guardians/ Community workers be mindful of this: use this time to open the lines of communication especially with individuals.
For those of you prone to holiday blues please avoid Facebook or social media stalking. Don’t use your Holiday to start searching for people you know (especially former friends/spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends) maybe in a former life or grade. I am sure all these people are having wonderful lives, but we never know what really goes on behind those pictures. Our youths may not be mature enough to quite understand that yet but adults remember you are. So if Social media is your source of sadness take a break until after the holidays.
Quick Tip: Social media monitoring and phone calls Can be signs of distress. Learn to be aware of hidden words and messages that scream help. Silently check their Social Media status updates, this can be a silent cry for help.
Please note that my position as your advocate/Nurse is not to treat or diagnose you but to help you navigate to the right resources.
As your advocate I suggest the following: If the depression is serious, seek help from a professional/Advocate. Always remember to set personal boundaries regarding the money spent on gifts and the number of social events. Be present and enjoy each moment as best you can. Figure out what basics are going to help you get through the holidays and make them a priority. Take action and do interesting and fun things. If you are religious, take part in church activities that focus on the bigger meaning of Christmas. Avoid family conflict.
Learn to grieve if you are mourning a loved one. It’s a good time to talk about your feelings or reach out to support groups, make a connection with someone in your community that can act as a support system for you. It’s not uncommon to feel angry at the person for leaving you alone or feeling guilty if you do enjoy yourself during the holidays.
All feelings are a sign that you’re human and reflect where you are in your healing process. There’s no one right way to feel.
The Christmas season has become a difficult time for many people in our society. For those of us who don’t have difficulties at this time of year, it’s an opportunity to reach out to those who become depressed. For those who are depressed, it’s an opportunity to take action, to think, feel and act in ways that breaks free from the past. This has been watching out for your health with Michelle Smith, Your Health and Social Advocate.