Mental health plummets during the holiday season


Annabel Williamson, Editor in chief

With Christmas songs jingling, heartfelt Hallmark movies playing, white snow glistening and holiday decorations bringing a feeling of warmth to the chilly weather, the holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year.  But to some, snow isn’t the sparkling sign of happy times. It is cold, wet, and suffocating.

Some students dread the holidays, as feelings of guilt and grief are hidden by Christmas carols and hot cocoa.  “There is heightened anxiety depression, and more acting out during the holidays,” said school social worker Karen Kerr. There are many factors that can create a decline in mental health during the winter months. One factor is biology. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons most commonly occurring during winter, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This can be caused by decreased serotonin levels in the body due to lack of sunlight, or a disruption in the body’s melatonin levels. Seasonal Affective Disorder is not circumstantial; these feelings are inevitable to those with this disorder no matter what is happening outside the mind. Despite the common trend of an increase in depression during the holidays, Seasonal Affective Disorder heavily affects only about three percent of Americans Another cause of depression during the holidays is external factors. In a survey done by the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 75% of those who participated said the holidays contribute to feeling sad or dissatisfied.  The holidays can place a lot of stress on families, both financially and emotionally. Winter is ‘the time of giving’ and for families with barely enough to support themselves, the pressure to give to others creates stress and the feeling of letting others down. “There is a perfect sense of how the holidays should be with your families.” stated Kerr, when speaking of the emotional strain put on families during the holidays.

The holidays can also bring more attention to those who have lost loved ones, as 50% of participants who said the holidays make them feel sad or dissatisfied contributed those feelings to being unable to see loved ones. Seasonal depression has no set demographic. Anyone can fall victim to the gray mood that the dreary cold creates. This along with the unrealistic idea of blissful happiness that the holidays create is often a dangerous combination for many. Winter is a time to be watchful and aware of friends and family. Changes in mood, changes in behavior, increased irritation, and declining grades are all  common symptoms of a drastic decrease in mental health. During the rush of the holiday festivities, it is important to look out for those who may be falling behind. As Kerr stated, “There’s this expectation of happiness and if a student feels they’re falling short of that it could contribute to more depression.”

It is important to understand the idea of happy times does not mean all problems are wiped away.  Happiness is never a generality, and not feeling the holiday joy shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of. In fact, many problems grow behind the mask of the holidays.  If you find yourself feeling down during the holidays and may need help, talk to your Milford High School counselors, Adrianne Desenzio (Gr-O), Beverly Groth (A-Go), and Gina Pryor (P-Z). But, if you find yourself in an immediate crisis, call the national suicide prevention line at  1-800-273-8255.