Don’t ignore serious signs of the holiday blues
Anyone suffering from a depressive disorder or knows someone who is should be especially aware of the warning signs of suicide risk
- Talking about being a burden to others, feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain or suicidal thoughts.
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting recklessly.
- Withdrawing from activities; isolating from family and friends.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
- Giving away prized possessions.
- Aggression, anxiety, rage, irritability, humiliation.
The holidays are a time of year when festive gatherings with family and friends exude sentiments of joyful cheer, but for people suffering from depression, this can be an especially difficult time.
Anyone can come down with the holiday blues, but for people with depression or other mental illness, the severity of such blues can be extreme.
“Comparing the holiday blues to a depressive disorder is like comparing a cold to pneumonia,” said Mindy Marriott, executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide. “Major depression can destroy joy for living and make it impossible to focus on work and responsibilities. Individuals may experience hopelessness and depressive symptoms such as sadness and tearfulness throughout the day. Thoughts of death or suicide may enter their minds.”
However, the holiday blues shouldn’t be dismissed as nothing to worry about, said Meghan Francone, the former executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide who works as a speech therapist with the Moffat County School District.
“Either way, whether the holiday blues or you’re struggling more, you still need to reach out and get support,” she said.
Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide is an organization in the Yampa Valley that provides suicide prevention, intervention and postvention resources and education to anyone in need. This includes anyone suffering from depressive disorders or suicidal thoughts, as well as their loved ones.
As Christmas and the near year approach, here are some helpful ways to recognize the signs in yourself or others.
Know the symptoms
Increased symptoms of holiday depression are attributed to many factors. The weather change can create decreased energy, sadness, decreased interest in activities and sleep disturbance.
“Getting out in the morning light and spending time outside can be quite beneficial,” Marriott said.
Overscheduling, increased alcohol use, overeating and lack of sleep are also common around the end of the year. People might exercise less, envy seemingly “perfect” families on television or social media, feel a financial strain or start to create unrealistic expectations of themselves, she said.
“Be realistic in what you seek to achieve, both personally and professionally,” Marriott said. “Don’t label the holidays as a time to cure all past problems. The holidays do not prevent sadness or loneliness.”
Francone said a big thing to watch for is a change in a person’s regular behavior. Even if someone is acting extremely positive, atypical from their normal behavior, that’s a red flag, she said.
“We’re really good about catching when people are down, but when the change seems ‘positive’ we tend to not see that as a red flag,” she said.
Know where to find help
Resources within the community cover a wide spectrum of options. Finding help depends on the severity of symptoms. Anyone in imminent danger or fearful that a loved one might be should always call 911.
“If not at that level, you can always try a crisis line,” Francone said. “We are surrounded in our community by wonderful supports that many people don’t always think of, such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Pregnancy Center and others.”
In Routt and Moffat Counties, deaths by suicide are significantly down this year compared to last year, Marriott said. There are two suicides to date in 2017, compared to nine in 2017. Marriott attributes the decrease to an increase in local and statewide media coverage, public education, increased identification methods such as screenings in schools and workplaces, and a decreased stigma associated with mental health. The local success is in contrast to state numbers, which have been on the rise since 2009. Colorado recorded the highest number of suicide deaths to date in 2015, with 1,093 deaths at a rate of 20.9 per every 100,000 people.
Statistics rank suicide as the 7th leading cause of death for all Coloradans, the leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 14, and the second leading cause of death for Coloradans ages 15 to 44.
“Unfortunately, suicide is like cancer. It does not care your age, gender, income — this feeling of hopelessness can impact anyone at any time,” Francone said. “It’s our responsibility to be ready and trained to help.”
Anyone who wishes to set up training in Question, Persuade Refer (QPR) or Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) can contact Marriott at 970-819-2232 or steamboatsuicideprevention.com. Trainings are available for individuals or groups.