What's the hardest part about being mental

Christmas: the saddest time of the year

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DEFAULT: It is always said that it is the best time of the year. Why are mental health problems so common at Christmas?

Schöny: At Christmas in particular, people who need help are particularly present in the media. Either because they have suffered severe blows of fate or because they are impaired. On the other hand, the mentally ill are more easily overlooked because their illness is not visible. As a result, those affected suffer even more because they think: "Everyone gets help, but I don't".

DEFAULT: What else puts those affected under pressure?

Schöny: In addition, Christmas is a time when society demands that we are well. You have to celebrate, there are lots of lights, gifts are given out. When someone is feeling bad when they should be fine, negative feelings are compounded. "I should be fine", people who are depressed often think. This mechanism is particularly strong at Christmas, and the deficits such as loneliness, that you have no one to give or receive presents from, are particularly visible to the individual.

DEFAULT: So the expectations are too high?

Schöny: Yes, and the problem is that they are heavily influenced by the public. People expect to be happy this Christmas. But there is no button that you can press so that the joy begins automatically.

DEFAULT: Is there the classic Christmas depression that you often hear about?

Schöny: No. There is no Christmas depression, only so-called seasonal depression. What is quite obvious, however, is that many more people turn to crisis aid at Christmas than the average.

DEFAULT: Are there also external influences?

Schöny: Yes. Winter is the time of year when seasonal depression is common. This is also because it is darker outside.

DEFAULT: How is such a depression noticeable?

Schöny: Those affected are sad, upset, they feel a feeling of displeasure, they go outside less and are afraid. Sometimes sleep disorders also occur, although people with seasonal depression tend to be particularly tired.

DEFAULT: Are there any gender differences?

Schöny: In women, depression is more common and also more visible. They are more likely to be helped. In men, depression often turns into aggressive behavior, they become contentious more quickly - especially in combination with alcohol abuse.

DEFAULT: How can you counteract this?

Schöny: First and foremost, you should talk about existing problems, with friends or family or with an outside person. In the next step, it is important to get professional help. There are crisis teams that even make house calls. Even at this time of year you should consciously go outside and meet people. Often associated with depression, people withdraw and avoid everything - but that only makes it worse.

DEFAULT: So maintain contacts, call old acquaintances?

Schöny: Yes exactly. Affected people often wait for someone to contact them. It would be better, however, for them to overcome themselves and take the initiative themselves.

DEFAULT: What if you don't know anyone?

Schöny: If an affected person really has no caregivers, it is still better to go somewhere where other people are, for example to a Christmas market, in nature or to the cinema. It is always better to be among people, although these people often have to struggle. The most important message is: It doesn't get any better just lying in bed.

DEFAULT: Can sport also help?

Schöny: Naturally. Exercise is an ideal remedy for depression. But only if you are used to doing sports. If you have never been athletic before, that will not change in a depressed state either.

DEFAULT: Can outsiders help?

Schöny: It can help to watch out for lonely or elderly people in the area. If I notice that an old neighbor is always lonely, then it is always better to speak to her than to say nothing. But that doesn't mean that you should impose yourself. For example, you can offer a joint activity, engage the person in a conversation or invite them over for coffee. The worst thing is always not to look. (Bernadette Redl, December 24, 2016)