They say ’tis the season to be jolly, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.
The holiday season can be stressful for anyone, but for those struggling with mental health issues the days leading up to Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day can be especially daunting.
According to an article published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, there appears to be an increase in certain types of psychopathology during the Christmas season, including worsening of mood and increased alcohol-related fatalities.
The number of psychiatric patients in emergency rooms and inpatient wards is lower before Christmas as is the number of suicide attempts and completions, the study said, but after Christmas clinicians can expect to see an overall increase in patients seeking psychiatric care.
Rebecca Jones, Nord Center director of intake counseling, said the Lorain-based center sees a general increase in the number of people seeking mental health assistance during the holidays.
“Some clients need to be seen more frequently by their therapists,” Jones said. “We want to help people understand they can make meaning of a holiday even if your life isn’t how it used to be or how you’d like it to be.”
The Lorain County Board of Mental Health produces a booklet, “Coping with the Holidays,” that provides tips to make it through loss, change or struggles during the holiday season.
The booklet offers suggestions like practicing moderation in shopping, eating and drinking, finding time for oneself, dealing with grief and surviving divorce.
Jones said those in isolation or alone, whether for age- or health-related reasons, may find this time of year especially tough when they think about how others might be out celebrating in groups.
“Isolation can happen as a result of a number of factors,” Jones said. “People need support systems in their lives, but sometimes people are limited with transportation or mobility, and we try to help them identify how to reach out and stay connected.”
Jones said more people reach out for help at the Nord Center during the holiday season as people seek ways to cope with its stresses.
“Our intake department has been bustling, which is not all that unusual,” she said. “But, in my experience, I think folks really tend to seek more help around Christmas. Sometimes the holidays are very disappointing for people who recognize that it wasn’t what they hoped it would be. We tend to see a lot more folks after Christmas.”
Jones said friends, family members and neighbors play a vital role in the lives of those struggling with mental illness during the holidays.
“A caring contact who makes a phone call, sends an email or reaches out to say hello and offer support is important,” she said. “Research demonstrates that caring contacts are one of the first lines of defense in preventing drastic action when folks really are struggling. It doesn’t have to be a three-hour visit, sometimes a phone call helps.”
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
Nord Center Crisis Hotline and Warm Line
For a mental health crisis, call (800) 888-6161. Callers can ask for the Warm Line if seeking advice during a non-crisis situation from a trained peer-support specialist who has struggled with their own mental illness.
Lorain County Board of Mental Health
The board provides assistance to those seeking services for mental health issues, call (440) 233-2020. For a copy of “Coping with the Holidays,” visit http://lcb mh.org/wp-content/uploads/ 2016/04/coping-with-the-holidays-3.pdf.
Gathering Hope House
Provides daily support activities for the mentally ill and their families. Call (440) 233-7400.
National Alliance for Mental Illness Lorain County
Works to destigmatize mental health issues and offers support services, outreach and advocacy for the mentally ill and their family members. Call (440) 204-4391.
Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.