Emily Potts 21st December 2018
Christmas is a joyful time. Seeing family and friends, exchanging gifts and, perhaps, having a drink or two, all soundtracked by Christmas music and the sound of laughter. It’s the most wonderful time of the year… except it isn’t — not for everyone. There is a huge pressure to be happy, shop until we drop and decorate our homes with too much tinsel, and for those of us who can’t or don’t want to partake, feeling like the only one who isn’t can be really detrimental to our mental health.
For those dealing with mental health problems, Christmas can be a challenging time and provide plenty of difficult situations to navigate. Memories and associations with this time of year aren’t always of presents and mince pies. For some, Christmas only evokes feelings of loss, anxiety and stress. In fact, according to statistics from 2016 by the UK’s leading mental health charity Mind, the festive period is significantly more difficult for people currently experiencing mental health problems.
Around 30% of people feel unable to cope at Christmas and 40% feel lonelier at Christmas than any other time of the year, even if they have people around them. Part of the problem appears to be overly high expectations, with almost half feeling the pressure to have the “perfect Christmas”, and 20% comparing their Christmas to other people’s on social media.
It is clear that many people will need some extra support this Christmas, but not everyone feels they have someone to confide in. Half of all people with a mental health problem don’t feel they had someone to talk to over the festive period if they needed to, and one in 10 people don’t know where to get professional support. With that in mind, we want to raise awareness of the services and tips available for coping over the Christmas period.
Considering many people feel lonelier over Christmas and New Year, Mind have put together some tips on coping with loneliness.
The pressure to spend a lot of money on presents for family and friends can trigger a lot of money worries. If you think money is a significant factor in your mental ill-health, then take a look at this information, which addresses the relationship between money and mental health. There’s a wealth of additional information on the site too, concerning eating problems, how food affects mood and alcohol, which may be helpful for people who are struggling with the amount of food and drink consumed in the next couple of weeks.
Mind also provide support over the Christmas period through their info line, which can be found here.
Elefriends is Mind’s online supportive peer community group, which is a safe place to listen, share and be heard. This might be particularly useful as speaking with a community of peers who can share their own struggles, as well as offer advice and help with our own, can help us to feel like we’re not alone in our experiences. Whether you’re feeling good right now or really low, it is full of people who are great at supporting each other. As it is an online service, there will be people there to offer and receive help throughout the Christmas period.
SANE is a leading UK mental health charity that works to improve the quality of life for anyone who is affected by mental health problems, meaning they can offer support not only to sufferers, but family members and friends too. SANEline is a national out-of-hours mental health helpline that offers emotional support, guidance and information. It will be open as usual from 4.30pm to 10.30pm on 0300 304 7000, during Christmas, as they understand the holiday season can be a distressing time for some.
Samaritans are best known for providing a hotline which people who are dealing with suicidal thoughts and urges can call. However, the support they offer is not limited to those who are experiencing the more severe end of mental ill-health, but anyone who needs emotional support or is just struggling to cope.
For a listening ear during Christmas time, the Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 116 123.
Emily Potts 21st December 2018