Strength to Live: Surviving the holiday blues

Strength to Live: Surviving the holiday blues
Brentwood Hospital, Shreveport/SOURCE: Marie Waxel, KSLA News 12
Brentwood Hospital, Shreveport (Source: Marie Waxel/KSLA News 12)
Brentwood Hospital, Shreveport (Source: Marie Waxel/KSLA News 12)
Brentwood Psychiatrist, Dr. Kay Kennedy discussing the holiday blues. (Source: Marie Waxel/KSLA News 12)
Brentwood Psychiatrist, Dr. Kay Kennedy discussing the holiday blues. (Source: Marie Waxel/KSLA News 12)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The holidays can be a time of love and cheer.

But for many people, the winter months and the close of another year can be tough.

They can trigger symptoms of anxiety and depression.

If left untreated, those symptoms eventually can lead to suicidal thoughts or even attempts.

"Surprisingly a lot of people think Christmastime, holiday time is when we have the most suicides," Dr. Kay Kennedy said.

"But it's not. It's spring and some peak in the fall, as well."

What people experience the most this time of year is the holiday blues, said Kennedy, a psychiatrist at Brentwood Hospital in Shreveport.

"Based on maybe over-expectations, or over-idealization over what the holidays should be, or perhaps previous memories from conflicted holidays with families, or holidays not living up to the Hallmark version of peoples expectations."

Another common syndrome is seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

"As the days get shorter, there's less light," Kennedy explained. "We know light is very important and activating certain glands in the brain that help promote a sense of well-being, we see more depression."

If left untreated, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts.

"These people are at an increased risk. We know that 80 percent of people that kill themselves do have a primary psychiatric disorder, major depression being the most common," Kennedy said.

"What we're talking about is very important because suicide is not rare. It's the 10th leading cause of death overall."

Suicide accounts for 35,000 to 45,000 deaths a year.

"It's like other things. If we bring it out of the darkness, we talk about it, people are going to have a lower threshold to intervene on someone that's having difficulty or they think maybe suicidal," Kennedy said.

"A lot of people think 'I don't want to get involved. I don't want to get them angry at you.' Wouldn't you rather get them angry by intervening then have them not survive because of suicide?"

Kennedy suggests that people use the holidays to focus on others.

"It's a good time that you can become more aware because you're going to be with your family and loved ones more often.

"We see a lot of people come to treatment during that time for alcohol and drug use because I think the family actually sees them more often," Kennedy continued. "So you're going to see the things that contribute to their increased chance of depression or suicide."

There are things you can do to help.

"Be the support person for people. Do things to get them out. However, don't let it overwhelm them," Kennedy advised.

"A lot of times, people during this time, people over-plan, stretch themselves, overspend. Those can be stressors. Those are things that can lead to the holiday blues, among other things."

Key to the issue is staying active.

"I can't overemphasize just getting out for a walk. Time for yourself," Kennedy said.

And remember, if you are struggling, you're not alone.

"You're not a failure at all. You're just reacting to stresses or maybe learned patterns, but this is when you go back to basic self-care."

It is important to remember to take it seriously if you think anyone is in danger and never leave a suicidal person alone, Kennedy stressed.

Get them help.

Brentwood Hospital has a 24-hour assistance line designed to help people in the ArkLaTex. That telephone number is (318) 678-7500.

Help also is available by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at (800) 273-8255.

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