The Holiday Season is here and many people assume the Holidays and depression go together. In addition to assuming the Holidays and depression go together, people assume that suicide rates increase during this time of year. Well according to the statistics from the CDC, suicide rates actually drop during the Holiday Season. The study by the CDC is not sure why they drop but they do. May be they drop because during this time of year we pay more attention to depression and suicide. There are a number of ads and social media posts where people can call if they feel suicidal. In addition, now social media sites are offering assistance to teenagers and people who are feeling suicidal. Therefore, there definitely is more focus on people feeling suicidal than other times of the year. For example, we tend to forget about suicide during the summer and focus on the sun and swimming.
What the CDC did find is that loneliness increases during this time of year. During the Holidays there are songs and plenty of television shows regarding getting together with family and friends. You also have people talking about all the Holiday parties that they have to go to. Furthermore, you hear people talking about how well their lives are going. However, this is not the case for everyone.
If you are a military family, a loved one may be stationed overseas and won’t be home for the Holidays. Also during the year some close friends or loved ones may have died and you are grieving their death. We are still dealing with the pandemic and we still have thousands of people dying daily due to the Coronavirus. Since the pandemic started in 2019, over 700,000 Americans have died. Therefore, there are a lot of people in our Country grieving and feeling lonely due to a loved one dying from the Coronavirus. Additionally during the Holidays is a time when many people are talking about family and friends that have died and they remember the people they have lost over the years. The first Holiday Season without a close loved one or friend can be very difficult. You may not feeling like celebrating or you may have to change Holiday traditions which can make some one feel sad and lonely. However, it may be necessary so you can tolerate the Holidays.
Another common difficulty during this time of year is money. Many people feel like they need to spend a great deal of money to show love. They may just be able to pay their monthly bills and cannot afford Holiday gifts. Why do we need to spend money to show that we care? What if you write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you and how much you appreciate them. Isn’t that the real purpose of the Holiday Season? Isn’t this the time of year we take to tell people in our lives how much we appreciate them. Also it’s an opportunity to tell people we tend to ignore, people sleeping on the street or who are dealing with mental illness that they are important too? Everyone is important and should be included. Also instead of spending a lot of money, you can donate your time so someone who is struggling financially or emotionally has an easier time.
As a psychotherapist, I have seen that people dealing with mental illness feel lonely and out of place during this time of year. They don’t often feel the joy of the season. Sometimes they struggle just to make it through the day. Also mental illness is something we don’t discuss as a society. We tend to act like it doesn’t exist so we ignore the issue. Also since it is an uncomfortable issue for many people because they often feeling ashamed and embarrassment about family members who are mentally ill. As a result, they tend to ignore their family members and friends who struggle with mental illness because it makes them feel awkward. This makes it less likely for people dealing with family members or friends who have a mental illness to talk about it with others or seek help professional about how to cope with the holidays. This can make people feel lonely and isolated especially during this time of year.
We seldom acknowledge the daily struggle that people and families dealing with mental illness go through on a daily basis. It is important to acknowledge that mental illness is not a weakness it is a medical condition. There is no reason to look down on someone with mental illness. We offer encouragement and support to people with cancer, diabetes and chronic health conditions, why can’t we do the same for people with mental illness?
I have included a link to a video where a teenager discusses dealing with depression https://youtu.be/dAzqGcOLXBs. Listen to what he has to say and answer the question, does he deserve to be looked down upon because he is depressed?
Also remember the Holidays can be a lonely time for people. So if you see someone who looks like they are having a hard time or know someone who is struggling during this season, try to help. Do something kind for them. Another thing to remember, being kind to people should be a year round activity for all of us. We should not just be kind during the Holidays. If we try to be kind all year, we may be able to decrease how many people feel lonely and depressed. Also if we are kind and offering support year round may be we can eliminate the negative stereotype associated with mental health.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience. He specializes in treating depression and suicide especially depressed and suicidal children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his websites at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3