Ho, ho, hope
It’s concerning that the height of the mainstream holiday season—traditionally a boon for celebration and good cheer—is becoming a stage for mental, emotional and physical health.
Do you notice an increasing narrative on combating stress, anxiety and depression, and a steady stream of content calling out warning signs, remedies and support resources related to “holiday distress?” In my neighborhood, The Chicago Department of Public Health posted a resource on “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay During the Holidays” on Facebook.
And then there’s the tragic news of the sudden loss of beloved celebrity, husband and father Stephen tWitch Boss from death by suicide that has generated countless tributes of shock and sadness and sparked conversations on the urgency to address the mental health crisis.
The CDC reports that in 2020, 45,979 people died by suicide in the United States. That’s 1 person every 11 minutes. Further, the agency notes that 12.2M adults seriously thought about suicide; 3.2M made a plan; and 1.2M attempted suicide. There’s also a disproportionate rate of suicide among certain ethnic groups with the highest suicide rates among non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic Whites. The suicide rate among males in 2020 was 4 times higher than the rate among females. And people ages 85 and older have the highest rates of suicide.1
Suicide can touch anyone, anywhere, and at any time. But it is not inevitable. There is hope.U.S. Department of Health and human services
I applaud the loud and persistent voice giving attention to an ongoing untreated epidemic wreaking havoc on joy and happiness year-round let alone during the end of year holidays. But are we listening to the cries for help, seeing the warning signs of distress and taking the prescribed action to protect those in need, including ourselves. How can we make time and create room to deal with mental health issues with ourselves and others when we’re busy with holiday shopping, parties and the clock ticking on finishing projects and resolving unattended goals before the yearend? The causes and solutions become intertwined and blurred.
The scope of this condition ranges from the overwhelming pressure of additional socializing, increased spending—oftentimes unbudgeted and spending more time with family—sometimes estranged, to the extreme pain of fear, fatigue, conflict, depression, anxiety and ultimately the feeling of inescapable gloom.
For most of my life, I’ve been dealing with the struggles of my own mental and emotional health. From overlooked childhood anxiety and self-esteem difficulties and young adult imposter syndrome to disregarded postpartum depression and now diagnosed chronic depression, I’ve been combatting my illness through therapy, medication and sheer self-preservation. Yet it’s exhausting and often times hopeless. And there it is: hopelessness. The state of plummeting into despair and the doom of surrender.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Suicide can touch anyone, anywhere, and at any time. But it is not inevitable. There is hope.”2 The Department runs SAMSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
What can we do? I’m no expert, so I’ll offer some of the ways I cope and resources I rely on:
- Say it out loud; no one needs to be listening, but try to find someone who will, too.
- Write it down, journal, make a private video or recording.
- Consult your medical professionals.
- Keep an eye out on social media for content and conversations. Many users do post credible resources and messages. Make sure to vet these. Here are a few I found:
- The Andrew Applegate Foundation: Alongside Andrew website and Facebook
- So.Informed Five Things to Do If You Feel Hopeless on Instagram
- Maria Shriver’s The Sunday Paper
- Podcasts from Tami Simon, Lee Harris, Tara Brach, Eckhart Tolle, The Butterfly Forecast and Finding Our Way.
- And then there’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988
Sending you love, compassion and hope during the holidays and all year around.
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Suicide Data and Statistics
2The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Suicide Prevention Resources