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What to do when it’s a blue Christmas

For some people, the holidays aren’t nearly as merry and happy as they wish they were. What can bring many people joy and gladness leaves others feeling depressed, stressed and hopeless.

Barri Faucett, psychologist with Prestera Mental Health Center in Huntington, W.Va., said while suicide rates are actually highest in the spring, feelings of sadness and depression can increase in some people during this time of year.

“A lot of the times, I think it’s unrealistic expectations people set for themselves, overextending themselves with obligations,” Faucett said. She added that for people who have lost loved ones and are used to seeing them during the holidays, it can signify that loss even more.

“There are a lot of sources of stress in the holiday, financial stress, balancing obligations and fatigue,” she said.

Faucett said those who are at the biggest risk for depression include people who are isolated, like seniors who live alone. Women also face an increased risk of depression during this time, likely because of increased stress, she said.

“Some ways people can combat holiday stress is to set realistic expectations, have exercise, rest and healthy eating and don’t over do it on alcohol, which is a depressant,” she said. She added that spending time with people who make you comfortable is another way to make things easier.

Faucett said there is a difference between holiday stress and clinical depression.

“If it lasts more than two weeks or if it lasts past the holidays, or if they feel they are having troubling thoughts and are not able to eat or sleep, the individual need to seek help,” she said.

She added that feelings of hopelessness or helplessness and loss of interest in activities also point to depression. She said that, simply put, if depression is interfering with your daily functioning and you are not able to do what you normally do, it’s time to get help.

“Depression is totally treatable if you get assistance with it,” she said.

She said a person can go to a physician or call a local mental health agency that can see patients immediately.

She said if a person is feeling suicidal, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), can help.

If a family or friend is showing signs of depression, Faucett said it is important to ask them.

“You won’t make someone feel more suicidal or more depressed if you ask them,” she said. “Just make sure the individual gets help.”