Holiday cheer and mental health

Published 11:09 am Saturday, December 22, 2018

The holiday season is a time of celebration and fellowship. It’s a time to visit with family and friends. It’s a time to give back to the community and help out the less fortunate. According to a popular song, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year.”

But unfortunately, these words don’t hold true for everyone. For some, the holiday season is not a fun time. It may be hard for those who’ve recently lost loved ones or are separated from family members, such as those deployed overseas with the military. People living with depression or anxiety may find their mental health suffering more than usual.

My fellow coworker, Gene, wrote an excellent column last week on this topic as well, sharing suggestions for helping friends and family get through the tough times of the holiday season. (If you missed it, you can check it out on our website as well!)

This week, I want to piggyback on the same idea but focus on specifically suicide prevention and depression. It’s so important to reach out to people who are suffering, even if they try to hide it or do not ask for help. We need to know the warning signs to look for and how we can provide support.

It’s never an easy topic to talk about, but we should not brush it under the rug. Especially not this time of year when things can get worse.

Here’s some information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website:

“There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated,” reads the AFSP website’s page about risk factors and warning signs.

Often a change in behavior is a red flag that something may be wrong. Verbal warning signs can be someone saying things like they want to kill themselves, they feel hopeless, they have no reason to live, they feel like a burden to others, they feel trapped or are in unbearable pain. Behaviors such as increased substance abuse, withdrawing from activities, isolating themselves, sleeping too much or too little, giving away prized possessions, and visiting people to say goodbye are all warnings signs to be concerned about. Additionally, people who are considering suicide may display a variety of moods including depression, anxiety, irritability, shame, anger, or sudden improvement/relief.

The AFSP website also provides guidance on what to do if you think someone is at risk.

“Have an honest conversation. If you think someone is thinking about suicide, assume you are the only one who will reach out,” the website reads.

In other words, don’t leave the problem for someone else to solve.

There are six tips they suggest to follow when reaching out. First, talk to the person in private. Listen to their story. Tell them you care about them. Ask directly if they are thinking about suicide. Encourage them to seek treatment or to contact their doctor or therapist. Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problems, or giving advice.

The national suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and it is available at any time. There’s also a texting option available to talk to a trained crisis counselor. Simply text TALK to 741741.

It is important to support good mental health and work towards helping people before they reach a point where they cannot cope anymore. Locally, we have Trillium Health Resources to connect people with the service they need. The 24-hour Access to Care line (1-877-685-2415) can direct people to local resources and providers. Trillium’s website also has a wealth of information to access.

My hope is that these resources can help you reach out and better assist someone who is suffering. For some people, this time of year is tough. For the rest of us, we ought to support those people.

Isn’t that the real spirit of the season?


Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.