For many Christmas is a time for family and celebration. However, for many others it is a difficult time and can serve as a trigger for many mental health issues.
According to the excellent charity Beyond blue over 3 million Australians are living with depression. It is normal for a person’s mood to fluctuate but to feel persistently sad is not considered normal.
Major depression or depression primarily involves a persistent feeling of low mood. The sufferer will find a lack of pleasure or enjoyment for things they might expect to enjoy or have enjoyed previously. This can interfere with a person’s daily life with reduced socialisation, poor concentration and problems in established relationships, as well as difficulty forming new ones. There can be physical changes too such as lack of energy, poor sleep and weight changes.
In its most severe form depression can even cause psychosis with hallucinations and feelings of low self-worth and paranoia.
Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for those suffering with depression as there is a cultural expectation to be merry which, understandably, they may find very difficult. This can lead to a cycle of increasing isolation and loneliness which can further perpetuate the burden of depression.
Similarly, for many of us Christmas is a time for happy memories but for those who are grieving or dealing with loss it can be a painful reminder of those feelings.
Parties and social events can also be a challenge for those with substance abuse problems. There is an increased pressure to drink and those around us who struggle with this may need more support at this time. Sometimes saying ‘just have one more drink’ can pose a really difficult situation for someone so it’s important to respect the choices of others. Excess alcohol or drug use can also lead to an increase in risk taking behaviour such as drink driving.
The incidence of domestic violence increases at Christmas, which no doubt has a link to the rise in alcohol consumption. There are also added financial and family stresses at this time.
Popular consensus is that suicide rates go up at Christmas time, when actually it’s the contrary.
However, the above discussion highlights how the festive period could be a trigger for self-harm or suicide. If you know someone who is vulnerable, or you are worries about the following can be things to look out for:
- Sense of hopelessness and lack of positive outlook for the future
- Multiple mentions about death and life carrying on without them
- Deliberate avoidance of interactions with others and Isolation
- Dramatic swings in both mood and behaviour, increased anger or aggression, intense sadness.
- Worsening or escalating substance abuse patterns
- Feelings of being unworthy or a burden
If you are affected by any of the issues above and feel like you don’t know where to turn, there are plenty of resources available. Our emergency specialist doctors at www.myemergencydr.com may also be able to direct you to the most appropriate service and you may find it easier to talk face to face, via video link. A friendly understanding voice can be all it can take to help you feel ready to seek help.