Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tis the season to be blue

'Tis the season to be jolly Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la...or maybe not.

While many of us look forward to celebrating the holiday, for many others this time of year can magnify ongoing problems and bring additional worries.

For those facing an ongoing struggle with depression, the relentless cheeriness of the season can be very confronting. For individuals who feel isolated or who have suffered bereavement over the past year, the coming together of friends and family can emphasise the sense of loneliness or loss. For some, it’s the opposite, as coming together with family at the holiday reignites conflict or struggles. Add to the additional financial pressure as we cave in to the commercialism of Christmas and it's no wonder that the number of calls to crisis lines such as Lifelife increase dramatically and that the suicide rate climbs in December.

For those of us fortunate to be looking forward to the holiday, we can at least be mindful and look out for those around us who may be struggling. It may not always be obvious, people can often be skilled at masking their feelings. Important signs to look out for can include: a loss of pleasure, withdrawal, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, fatigue, irritability, sad mood, expression of suicidal thoughts.

Helping can be as simple as taking the time to ask people what’s happening for them and listening. Be supportive, avoid offering platitudes. If you think suicide may be an issue, don’t be afraid to ask about it – it’s one of the biggest myths of suicide that talking about it prompts action. If you know someone who is alone, invite them over.

If you know it’s yourself that is vulnerable at this time of year, think carefully about what might help your situation and follow through. Professor’s House has some useful advice about boundary setting. Things getting out of hand? Scale Christmas back to a more acceptable level. At Christmas, when we might feel the weight of our own and others expectations upon us, accept that is okay to ask for help and be prepared to accept it when offered.

Here's wishing a happy holiday to all!



Donna said...

The idea of scaling back is a great one. There's so much media pressure to make the holidays a big deal. Keeping things as calm as possible can make a big difference in not becoming overwhelmed.

Have a good one :)

Deb said...

HP, this is a great AND important post.

Health Psych said...

Thanks Donna and Deb. Hope you both have a great holiday!