Recognize, care for those suffering from depression during the holidays

Published 9:56 am Thursday, December 8, 2022

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This editorial opinion discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

A counselor and friend recently described a Butler County client who was grappling with thoughts of taking her own life. This young woman had reached the point of despair and felt as if life was no longer worth living.

Many people feel this way when life’s challenges seem to be more than they can bear. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports 4.9% of all U.S. adults entertain serious suicidal thoughts. More than 11% of young adults between ages 18 and 25 consider taking their own life and 18.8% of high school students think seriously of suicide.

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Those struggling with grief over the death of a loved one, loss felt after a broken relationship, or a battle with substance abuse, individuals experiencing those problems combined with mental health concerns sometimes find themselves unable or unwilling to continue what they may view as an uphill battle.

Feelings of loss, frustration, anger, guilt, anxiety, depression, and grief can become even more oppressive for the sufferer during the holiday season, when other folks are celebrating and expressing gratitude for blessings.

As a single mother, I experienced more than a few lonely holidays, when my daughters were gone for visitation. There were times when holidays felt anything but joyful, especially when I focused on my daughters’ absence instead of recalling all the wonderful times we shared throughout the year.

Some can relate to the pain many experience when holidays don’t look like we prefer or imagined.

As neighbors, friends, and family, we can help mitigate the pain of those struggling emotionally during holidays.

Noticing changes in the lives of those around us is a good place to start. Recognizing warning signals —when someone stops attending events, increases alcohol or drug use, seems unreasonable or easily agitated, fails to leave home unless absolutely necessary, appears unusually slovenly or unkempt, experiences drastic weight changes, or displays reckless or impulsive behavior — is an important step toward helping them avoid reaching the breaking point.

Sometimes listening makes all the difference. When someone exhibits warning signals, ask questions. Listen carefully and let them know someone cares.

Suggest the individual seek professional help. Don’t try to treat them but do let them know you are there to provide help and support.

The holiday season is a time for great joy. God surrounds each of us with family, friends, and neighbors, and we must do what we can to show we care when we see them having a difficult time.

Take the time to care well during the holidays by noticing and helping who may need assistance experiencing all the joys of the season.