HealthLinc provides tips to work through holiday-related mental health struggles

HealthLinc provides tips to work through holiday-related mental health struggles

The holiday season is often referred to as a season of joy and a time to spread good cheer. For some, however, the season is bleak and magnifies their already existing mental health struggles or brings on new ones. 

HealthLinc Chief Behavioral Health and Addictions Officer, Mimi Gardner, shared several scenarios that can cause a holiday spike in mental health struggles: 

  • Not being able to be with loved ones
  • Not getting along with family members
  • A history of trauma within the family or with others
  • An absence of getting together due to a fight
  • Fear of triggering substance abuse disorders by being around those who will partake in their addictions

These are just some of the reasons why the holidays can be difficult, and even more so for those struggling with mental health issues.

Gardner said there is usually an increase in suicide rates at this time of year, and the pandemic is likely to make things worse. As the pandemic continues, many people are unable to spend the holidays with their families and are grieving the loss of this precious time and other holiday traditions.

In addition to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, people are also suffering from physical and financial losses.

“With the pandemic still raging, even more people face the holiday season unemployed, without health insurance, or wondering where they’re going to live,” Gardner said. “At HealthLinc, we make sure people connect with food banks, assist with signing up for health insurance and unemployment, and help people apply at banks for financial assistance in paying rent. We even have a Medical-Legal Partnership that can assist with civil-legal matters they may be facing, such as eviction and the elimination of benefits. We want to help them find any resources available so they can cope in these uncertain times.”

Gardner also mentioned that people who are struggling to afford gifts this year can turn to churches, food banks, Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and other public organizations to get gifts for their loved ones.

Many of the struggles this time of year are a result of feelings of isolation. Gardner works with individuals to break down the barriers that are keeping them from feeling a sense of community. Regardless of where you get that sense of community, Gardner stresses the importance of individuals connecting with “their people.”

“There are so many alternative ways to get together,” she said. “People are doing virtual dinners where everyone makes part of a meal, drops their portion off at friends or relatives' houses, and then gets together virtually to eat. Almost anything can be done this way. Singing Christmas carols, lighting menorahs, and baking cookies are just a few ideas. Understanding that you are doing it this way now, so you can be together in the future - I think that’s the biggest piece.”

In addition to spending time with friends and family virtually, Gardner stressed the importance of self-care through simple things like eating, sleeping, and exercising and through investing in simple joys like looking at decorations, getting a cup of coffee, celebrating old traditions, and developing new traditions.

HealthLinc encourages people to reach out to friends, doctors, clergy, next-door neighbors, and others for help if they are experiencing the holiday blues. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, HealthLinc has community health workers who can provide help and resources for coping with the holidays. Visit https://healthlincchc.org/ for more information.

If destructive thought patterns become severe or people feel they are in danger, Gardner urges people to contact HealthLinc at (888) 580-1060 or any of the following hotlines:

The Suicide Hotline: (800) 273-8255

The Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 332-7385

The Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: (800) 800-5556