Mental health and the holidays – Seymour Tribune

Posted: December 1, 2021 at 1:44 am

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Mental Health America of Jackson County ALIVE Coalition members include, from left, Kate DuBois, Melanie ONeal, Lin Montgomery, Molly Marshall, Heather VonDielingen and Becky Bujwid.

Elvis Presley sang about having a blue Christmas and actually, its perfectly normal to feel that way.

It can be the over-booked social calendar, deadlines at work, the loss of a loved one, dreary winter days, shopping or other things that make us feel down.

According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety and substance misuse. The reasons given: lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving and family gatherings.

To make matters worse, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports 64% of individuals living with a mental illness felt that their conditions got worse around the holidays according to

To address mental health and the holidays, a few members of the ALIVE coalition gathered on Monday at the Community Agency Building in Seymour to discuss the topic.

The coalition was formed in the fall of 2018 under the umbrella of Mental Health America of Jackson County. ALIVE stands for awareness, listening, informative, vigilance and engaged. The group typically meets once a month.

The common denominator of the group is the desire to reduce the suicide rate in Jackson County.

Thats what brought them all together, said Melanie ONeal, executive director of Mental Health America of Jackson County.

Besides ONeal, other mmbers include Becky Bujwid with Centerstone; Lin Montgomery, public health coordinator for the Jackson County Health Department; Molly Marshall and Heather VonDielingen with Purdue Extension Jackson County; Emily Sommers, a counselor at Jennings County High School; and Kate DuBois, an assistant principal at Emerson Elementary School.

At our last Zoom meeting, Becky was saying how the holidays can trigger a lot of memories for people and the last year-and-a-half has been so hard on our community and our whole world because of COVID, ONeal said. Theres going to be a lot of families celebrating their first Christmas after either COVID-related deaths or other deaths in their family.

ONeal said just start by reaching out to your circle of family and friends and asking what they are doing this holiday season.

Life gets so busy that sometimes we might not stop and think about someone who is widowed and lives alone and their children are grown or live out of state, ONeal said. Even talking to friends and family about church services that are going on over the holidays is a great way to reach out to meet other people in your community and have some connectiveness.

Around the holidays, people can also feel overwhelmed by everything they need to get done, so ONeal encourages people to dissect their day.

If you are feeling like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, think about what you need to have done, lets say between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and write it down, she said. Lets get to 1 oclock then we can reassess what you need to do between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., then youre doing baby steps and can check things off on your list to make it feel a little less overwhelming.

She went went on to say, just listening to some relaxing music can be therapeutic, just having it on in the background while you are doing something else can make a difference.

Montgomery said mental health is part of public health and they are there supporting and encouraging people and part of that is emergency preparedness.

If people need a reason to go talk to the lady up the street, we like to encourage neighborhoods to make that link to see if those individuals might need something in an emergency, Montgomery said. Such as a weather emergency, like if theres a lot of snow predicted, do they have heat, food, do they need their drive shoveled or anything else.

Marshall said making our way through a health pandemic, its especially important to take good care of ourselves now and through the holiday season.

The days are getting shorter, so its more of a challenge to get outdoors during the daylight hours, she said. But going out for fresh air is always beneficial, even when its cold out.

With the proper jacket, hat and gloves, you can go outside and take a 10- to 20-minute walk. Afterwards, youll be surprised how good you feel, Marshall said.

When its cold and dark out, its a little more tempting to sit around in the house, but around this time of year, a fun activity would be to park your car, walk around neighborhoods and look at Christmas lights.

She said disconnecting from social media is a good idea sometimes too, because more screen time often leads to us comparing ourselves with others and it takes away from our in person connections.

While taking a break from social media and the internet, take time to read a magazine or a book to see things from another perspectives as a kind of escape, she said.

Bujwid said theres so much pressure to have the perfect Martha Stewart Christmas.

I decided a long time ago that I did not have 50 people that work for me that could do all the decorating in my house and do all of the baking for a perfect Christmas, she said So I decided to just do the best I can and that was a real revelation for me.

Bujwid said she deals with children and families and theres the added pressure of buying gifts and getting the latest games or toys.

Luckily weve got the Shop with a Cop program and the Sertoma Christmas Miracle helping to help ease some of that pressure for the families who are trying to get their kids everything they want, she said. Sometimes families just have to tell the kids they cant afford some of those things, but they can have something else instead.

This time of year can be especially hard for people that live alone and people might not realize that, Bujwid said.

Maybe ask around or think of someone you know who is by themselves that you could ask over and could use some family time, she said. Just that time of togetherness can really mean a lot, just to be included.

For anyone struggling with depression this holiday season or just not quite feeling like yourself, there is a complete list of mental health providers in Jackson County listed on the Mental Health America of Jackson County website, There are also a variety of mental health screenings that can be accessed through the website.

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Mental health and the holidays - Seymour Tribune

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December 1st, 2021 at 1:44 am

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