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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – #MentalHealth For The #Holidays

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Practice self-care, look out for others

  • By Shannon Raybuck, LPC Special to the Fauquier Times
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There is a difference between the “holiday blues” and a diagnosable #mentalillness

For many people, the holiday season is a happy time spent with loved ones and filled with exciting festivities. Yet, for some it is a time that worsens #stress, #anxiety and even #depression. 

There are several factors at play which may trigger these “holiday blues” as well as cause an exacerbation of current #mentalhealth concerns, including: high/unrealistic expectations, financial stress, feeling overwhelmed, separation from family, personal grief, loneliness and fewer hours of sunlight. 

Furthermore, some people also experience a type of #depression called #seasonalaffectivedisorder, most commonly seen in the fall/winter months. The symptoms of #SAD include, but are not limited to, low energy, sleeping more than usual, overeating (especially craving carbohydrates), weight gain, social withdrawal, feelings of sadness and, for some, thoughts of #suicide. 

There is a difference between the “holiday blues” (where symptoms begin at the start of the holiday season and end shortly after the holidays are over), and a diagnosable #mentalillness where symptoms are present before and continue to be present after the holidays end and are negatively impacting an individual’s ability to function and be successful. However, all #mentalhealth symptoms regardless of onset or length should be taken seriously. 

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

The seasonality of #mentalillness experienced with #SAD is not its own diagnosis/disorder, but rather, it is regarded as a type of #depression with notable seasonal patterns. For those who experience these types of challenges, it is important to learn ways to manage their #mentalhealth. 

Practice self-care

  • Do things that help restore your mind and body. 
  • Set boundaries with others and realistic expectations. 
  • Seek professional help through counseling or psychiatry. 
  • Engage in peer support groups (for example with your local #NAMI chapter, the 12-step community or other faith-based communities). 
  • Be careful not to overindulge in alcohol or illicit substances, as this often makes symptoms worse. 
  • Exercise, eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep. 
  • Reach out to others (friends and family) and try not to isolate yourself. Make new traditions. 
  • Volunteer with a local nonprofit that helps others. 

For those who aren’t experiencing #mentalhealth challenges— why does this matter to you?Because it is very likely that people you encounter are currently being affected by a #mentalillness. In fact, according to Mental Health America and The #NationalAllianceonMentalIllness, nearly one in five American adults will have a diagnosable #mentalhealth condition in any given year. 

For that reason, it is important to raise awareness about #mentalillness and educate people on how they can better manage their #mentalhealth as well as support others who are facing adversity. 

If you know someone struggling — reach out! Be present with the individual, be a safe space for the individual, while letting them know you are coming from a place of caring, not judgement. Often it is not about giving advice but allowing the individual to share (or not share) their thoughts and feelings with someone they trust. 

You can offer specific plans (“I would like to bring you dinner tomorrow, how does that sound?”), rather than vague ones (“Do you want me to come over sometime?”). Ask the individual “What do you need?” or “How can I help?” Don’t be afraid to ask the individual if they are suicidal, and if they say “yes” then help them get to the nearest emergency room or call 911. Ask the individual if they are open to help to manage how they are feeling and discuss possible options. Educate yourself through #mentalhealth first aid training. 

Open communication

  • Keep the conversation open about #mentalhealth. 
  • Learn how you can play your part in changing the negative attitudes and misconceptions associated with #mentalillness. 
  • Be aware of stigmatizing language (the “schizophrenic” or “addict” versus person first language such as “the individual diagnosed with schizophrenia or with a substance use disorder”). 
  • Stop casually using #mentalhealth diagnoses as adjectives (e.g., saying the weather is “bipolar”). 
  • Avoid labeling someone (or their actions) as “crazy” or “psycho.” 
  • Stand up and confront others when you hear them using this language. Shift thinking and perception from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” 

Let’s work together to spread understanding, education and acceptance of #mentalhealth disorders and substance use disorders as genuine medical conditions, and not a defect of character. 

If you are an individual who is experiencing thoughts of #suicide, you can contact the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Shannon Raybuck is the mental health care coordinator at the Fauquier Free Clinic. 

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com
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