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22nd December 2014

Lighting up Christmas

Fairy LightsI was going to entitle this article ‘darkness and debt’ but thought that was not a cheery heading for a blog during the festive season, however, I did want to describe some of the factors that contribute to mental health problems at Christmas. I was prompted to write this after reading an article in a local newspaper about predictions being made by a hospital trust of a rise in numbers of admissions of men to local psychiatric hospital beds in December.

Christmas concerns

There’s a number of risk factors that can coincide during the Christmas and New year holiday period:

  • First of all the darkness factor. In Northern Europe it gets dark early in the afternoon, and many people do suffer from a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder caused by deprivation of daylight. Even for those who don’t suffer from SAD, many people experience a downturn in mood with dark wet miserable evenings and early mornings.
  • Pressures on shopping at this time can lead people to get into debt, and this becomes a major stress factor. Advertising on televisions and in shops is a relentless onslaught that seems to start as early as the beginning of November.
  • Christmas is portrayed as a happy family time, so for people who have suffered bereavement, or haven’t got family around them, it make them more conscious of their situation. Some people can’t wait for Christmas to be all over. It can feel very overwhelming – the idea that we’ve all got to have a good time. This is not just an issue of people feeling isolated or alone at Christmas, family pressures can be heightened when they spend a lot of time with each other.
  • Christmas has become a time when people overindulge in food and drink. Again supermarket television adverts of groaning dinner tables add to our impression of what some people think Christmas should look like. Lack of exercise, over eating, and drinking heavily are all factors that can contribute to poor mental health.

Not getting carried away

In thinking about how to cope with these pressures, perhaps the message should be, let’s not get carried away with Christmas and New Year, and be aware for some people around you it might be a very difficult time of year.

Anyway, back to the title of the article, this was inspired by Mind the mental health charity who are running a fundraising campaign called ‘Help light up Christmas’. You can read more about it here.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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