The holidays & our mental health

Dec 24, 2018

The holiday season can be a difficult time for many people.  WBFO’s senior reporter Eileen Buckley talked to one expert about why there is more anxiety, depression and holiday blues this time of year as the nation faces a mental health crisis.

“A lot of it is related to stress and things that are going on in people’s lives,” remarked Dr. Howard Hitzel, president and CEO of Best Self Behavioral Health. 

We know the holiday season can generate more stress, but for those living with mental illness, it can escalate even more difficult feelings at Christmas and New Year’s. 

Holiday decorations.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“People who aren’t feeling very well – they look around them and they see everyone else in a festive mood with their families and that kind of thing and so sometimes people compare to those other folks and say what’s wrong with me and why don’t I feel like that or why don’t I have a family like other people have – so it can be difficult for some folks,” remarked Hitzel.   

But the holiday season does not necessarily mean suicides increase. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, the suicide rate has been the lowest in December.  Still, the time of year can increase depression and anxiety. We asked Hitzel about the mental health crisis and he noted there has always been mental illnesses, but in modern times it has become a more open topic and he's seeing an increase with children at younger ages.

“The sooner we can intervene with young people that are having difficulties, the better off we’ll be – that really helping people identify difficulties in children at younger ages and also giving parents skills to help them be of help to their children is really important.

Hitzel tells us he’s encouraged by the 'great conversation' and acknowledgments now occurring around the topic of mental health and mental illness.