Its the most wonderful time of the year.
For some people, that is.
It might be December but it’s important to remember that not everyone in our midst is feeling festive right now. This can be a notoriously difficult time of the year and for myriad reasons. We don’t all wish it could be Christmas every day. Far from it, in fact.
Christmas is renowned as a time of fun and laughter, but it can also be a time of anxiety and stress. Year-round troubles can be intensified and burdens increased. The holidays might be approaching, but mental illness doesn’t take time off. That everyone else seems so joyful compounds the unhappiness of those who just aren’t feeling it. It’s important for us all – as mental health professionals and as parents – to recognise the signs and to act accordingly. Christmas is about giving, after all. The best thing we have to offer in such situations is our understanding.
Christmas can be tough for the bereaved, whether the loss is a recent one or whether the festive period marks an anniversary or stokes memories that are difficult to deal with. Christmas can lead to stress at home, to pressures familial and financial and to expectations so great that reality is unable to comply. Christmas can prompt competitiveness amongst peers and be used as a means of one-upmanship. There’s so much going on – both at home and at school – that it’s no surprise that some young people find it hard to cope. GCSEs are coming up and mock exams (and, more worryingly, results) are looming. Christmas or not, something has got to give.
Christmas is a time for hope, but it’s also a time in which disappointment can be deep, and it’s important to look beyond the turkey, the tree and the tinsel and to concentrate on the things that matter the most. Things like thoughts and feelings. Things like mental wellbeing.
Our advice is to talk about it. To encourage communication and to be as supportive as possible. To be compassionate and realistic. To forget for a moment that Christmas is coming, to keep things as normal as possible and not to expect too much. To find a confidante and to make available help that is appropriate and effective. Identify a trusted person – it could be a teacher or a friend, it might be Childline or the Samaritans – and ensure that a suitable support network is in place.
That’s all that those in need really want for Christmas. Everything else – the decorations, the carols and the cards – is just an irrelevance, with the potential to deepen problems and increase anxieties.
If you are worried about YOUR child, please give the CPUK team a call on 01661 852325 and we’ll do our utmost to provide the help, advice and support required this Christmas.
This can be the most wonderful time of the year.
But we understand that not everyone feels the same.