Mental health professionals: Holiday depression is a concern for many

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Whether it’s referred to as seasonal affective disorder, seasonal depression or holiday depression, experts say more people suffer from a form of depression or mental health issues during the holidays.

Mental health professionals like Ann Gilbert, IU Heath’s Service Line Medical Director of Behavioral Health, say the reasons for the uptick in mental health issues are as varied as the people who suffer from them. Some cases can be linked to factors such as lack of sleep, food or alcohol consumption, and expectations for the holidays that don’t live up to desires.

“And then there’s bereavement too, we always think of the people that are not at our holiday table,” Gilbert said.

While the average person may find themselves victims to the stresses of the holidays, mental health experts say those with pre-existing problems are at an increased risk.

According to David Berman, the Director of Deplanement for Mental Health America Indiana, the month of December usually presents itself as time when he sees a spike in depression cases.

“Most of these folks have an existing history of depression that’s exacerbated by the holidays. It’s like this vicious cycle or perfect storm of a lot of circumstances that increase,” Berman said.

Both Berman and Gilbert say it’s important to be aware of the risk for seasonal affective disorder and to do “mental health check-ins,” particularly for those that have pre-existing issues. They also highlight the importance of having support systems and people you can call should any problems arise.

Berman also highlights the difference between the “holiday blues” and depression. He says if feelings of depression or negative feelings last longer than two weeks you should reach out to a mental health professional for help.