Mental Health: Don’t Have a Blue Christmas

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 12/22/2017, 6:20 a.m.
Once a taboo subject, Mental Health has become one of the most talked about health crisis in recent years. With ...

Once a taboo subject, Mental Health has become one of the most talked about health crisis in recent years. With the increased conversation comes an increase of people seeking help to deal with their own mental health issues. One in every five adults experiences some type of mental health episode in a year according to statistical data collected by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Although there are various causes and triggers for mental health episodes, the holidays are a big trigger for the added stress it causes some people. Mental health professionals Abbie Steele, MA, LPC-S and Dr. Jinneh Dyson give us a better grasp of this critical health illness.

What is Mental Health?

“Mental health is not just the presence of illness but it is also the absence of wellness,” says mental health advocate Dr. Dyson. She believes that by adopting certain healthy mental habits and incorporating more wellness type activities into your daily life one can prevent many cases of mental illness.

Dr. Jinneh Dyson/photo credit: The Lennz Bennett Photography

Dr. Jinneh Dyson/photo credit: The Lennz Bennett Photography

On the flip side is the more medical or clinical definition of mental health that is the condition or state of someone experiencing something that’s abnormal or out of the ordinary for two weeks or longer. For example, when someone close dies, it is normal for people to lose or gain weight, sleep more or less, lose the ability to concentrate and cry a lot. But if that behavior persists outside the realm of what’s “normal” (i.e. longer than two weeks) then that person may be depressed and suffering from a mental health disorder.

Something to be aware of during these winter months from November through February is a type of mental illness known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to Steele, who is the Director of Outpatient Services at Kingwood Pines Hospital and is a psychotherapist at her own practice Steele Minds Counseling, SAD happens as the weather changes and affects one’s mood. Occurring at the same time each year, SAD is more common in the winter months when days are longer and darker due to the time change. Darker days means that people are getting less exposure to the sun and have a lack of vitamin D and serotonin in their system. Vitamin D is crucial to brain and body function and when the supply it is low people may feel symptoms of depression.

Abbie Steele, MA, LPC-S

Abbie Steele, MA, LPC-S

Holiday Blues are especially prevalent in December as well for the same reasons as stated above. Not only is one still dealing with the daily stresses of life itself but compiled with that are financial stresses with gift buying, family stresses with everyone coming together, maybe the loss of someone dear that has passed on, and so on.

Dr. Dyson breaks mental health triggers down into three categories. “We have the seasonal times of the year, holidays and special occasions, and especially this time between November to February.”

Signs and symptoms of most mental illnesses generally exhibit as the same for most illnesses. A person may show feelings of sadness, fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, hallucinations, lack of energy, unexplained pain, scared or confused feelings, mood swings, isolation, or thoughts of suicide. These signs and symptoms may not be recognized by the person suffering themselves that is why it is important for family and friends to be educated about mental health to recognize them in others.