New research by mental health charity Mind reveals one in six people in the region are unable to cope at Christmas.
And the impact of the pressures caused by the festive season will lead to one in 20 people considering taking their own life, rising to more than one in five of those with mental health problems.
With Christmas soon upon us and the heightened stresses and pressures surrounding this time of year, Mind says this could be the time when people, in particular those suffering from a mental health issues, need support more than ever.
Stephen Buckley, head of information for Mind, said: “Although for many people in the region, Christmas is something to look forward to, it can also bring with it additional pressures such as financial strains, feeling that everything has to be perfect and loneliness.
“This can be particularly difficult for the one in four people who experience a mental health problem, especially if they feel unable to ask for help. Mind can’t make Christmas perfect but we can ensure everyone has the support they need, whether through our infoline or online resources such as our guides for coping with stress and our Elefriends online peer support community.”
Eleanor Tasker, 21, was diagnosed with depression and anxiety a year and a half ago and finds the festive season an especially hard time of year.
It’s important to reach out to someone.Lynsey Callard
She said: “My depression has been really bad because I have got myself into debt and I don’t want to admit to my friends as I find it embarrassing.
“I also compare the presents I buy with the ones people get for me. I always feel they are not as good. When I am at my sister and her family’s, I feel like they are the perfect, settled-down family and I am the disappointment.
“I get excited about Christmas, but also quite stressed. There is always lots of family who I have not seen since I was thin. My weight gain makes it difficult for me to have a reunion with people who have not seen me for a while.
“I think social media is good, for example the use of hashtags – as you can find support through people who are going through similar problems. It’s important people with mental health problems can get support over Christmas, which is why Mind’s Elefriends is a good service.
People who are concerned for a friend are being urged not to shy away from having the conversation regarding their mental health and how they are feeling, as it could potentially prevent them from sinking further into the thoughts which are beginning to consume their life and may even save their life.
Head of Communications at the Samaritans, Lynsey Callard said: “Christmas comes with so many pressures, it’s really important to reach out to someone who is struggling to cope.
“Asking how they are is one the most important things you can do. Ask them if everything is alright and let them know you are there for them if they need someone to talk to.
“They may shrug you off or say everything is fine, but ask them again later. By being there for someone, being present for them and spending time with them is really important.”
Our series of articles in the days leading up to Christmas, which statistically is a tough time for those who have found themselves struggling to cope with life.
Each day, with the help of Hartlepool and East Durham Mind, we will be focusing on a different topic about mental health and wellbeing as well as inviting you to carry out a small act of kindness.
The campaign aims to encourage people to reach out to others and – for those who are struggling – show that there can be light at the end of the tunnel.
Today the charity is calling on people to think about someon you know, a friend, a colleague, a loved one, who may be having a difficult time. Reach out and let them know they are not alone. Send a text, a card or make a call and let them know they are loved and that you care.
Samaritans has advice on helping someone in need
The Samaritans have issued the following advice on how family and friends can start a conversation with someone they are concerned about:
Find a good time and place; Think about where and when to have the conversation before you start.
Ask gentle questions, and listen with care. The best way to help is to ask questions, that way you leave the other person in control and find out how they feel.
Revealing your innermost emotions - anger, sadness, fear, hope, jealously, despair and so on – can be a huge relief. It sometimes also gives clues about what the person is really most worried about.
Check they know where to get help. If someone has been feeling low for some time it is probably a good idea they get some support, whether through talking to someone like a counsellor of getting some practical help.
Useful questions you might ask them include:
‘Have you talked to anyone else about this?’
‘Would you like to get some help?’
‘Would you like me to come with you?’
Or, for someone who is reluctant to get help:
‘Do you have someone you trust you can go to?’
‘If it helps, you can talk to me any time.’
If they don’t want help, don’t push them. Sometimes it’s easy to want to try and fix a person’s problems, or give them advice.
If you say the wrong thing. There is no perfect way to handle a difficult conversation, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it didn’t go as well as you had hoped.
How can you see the signs people need help
Someone believing suicide is their only option could be the result of problems building up where they can see no other way to cope with what they’re experiencing.
The Samaritans have put together some guidance on some of the signs which may signal someone is struggling to cope with life:
Lacking energy or appearing particularly tired;
Appearing more tearful;
Not wanting to talk or be with people;
Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy;
Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings;
Finding it hard to cope with everyday things;
Not liking or taking care of themselves or feeling they don’t matter;
Becoming withdrawn or losing touch with friends and family.
Sometimes people say things which might help you recognise they are struggling to cope including making leading statements, such as ‘It’s like the whole world is against me’ or negative statments about themselves such as no one loves me’, or ‘I’m a waste of space’, People sometimes say these things in the hope you will pick up on them and ask what they mean, so that they can talk about it.
People can contact Hartlepool and East Durham MIND at www.hartlepoolmind.co.uk,
Call: 01429 269303 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can also contact the Samaritans on 116 123
Hopeline for young people struggling with suicidal thoughts: 08000 684 141
or Text: 07786209697