By Colin Burrowes
Some people embrace the beginning of winter with a passion. They love the jolly holiday season that kicks it off and they can’t wait to get their skis strapped on or ride that snowmobile. Others just think of winter as something to be avoided, and if they can afford it, they spend our frigid months in a more comfortable climate south of here. They wait out the winter in Florida or Arizona or some other place that’s not buried in snow for six months.
Then, there’s those people who can’t afford to get away for the winter and they don’t stick around because they see the winter as a wonderful playtime. When the world turns red and green in December, their world turns blue.
For some people it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) kicking in. That blah feeling that usually hits anytime from late fall into winter. I was surprised to learn while I was doing some research for this column, that it’s not always the grey snowy days of winter that send people into a depressive spiral. For some people, SAD happens during the bright sunny summer months.
One theme that is common for people who suffer those holiday blues, is a guilt they feel for bumming out those who love the holidays. They feel like they are ruining the party if they are honest about how they feel, so they keep silent about their depression.
I feel I need to point out that the Centre for Suicide Prevention has concluded that suicide rates are not higher at Christmastime, in fact, suicide rates are fairly consistent throughout the year. This myth has been perpetuated by popular culture, such as movies like It’s a Wonderful Life. This myth can actually detract from the real facts surrounding suicide, and the temptation of the media and other informers to refer to it may mean a missed opportunity to effectively and responsibly spread awareness about suicide.
Not only is this a myth, but some researchers claim that the holidays can lessen the chance of a suicide, as people feel more connected to those around them. Despite this, we can all agree that the holidays can indeed be a stressful time. Loneliness, intensification of feelings of loss, financial hardships, family conflict and substance misuse can increase during the holidays.
Now, I do apologize if I’m bumming people out in this festive season. That’s not my intention. But I’m just acknowledging that everyone I meet on the streets, while I’m preparing to have a nice family Christmas, might not be jolly and full of holiday cheer. It’s a stressful time of year. It’s an expensive time of year and the bills don’t stop coming in just because Santa Claus is coming to town.
For some people the source of the winter blues can’t be pinpointed. They have all the money they need to get those Christmas presents and there is plenty of food on the table for the whole family to enjoy, but still, they feel gloomy. Mental health is a strange thing for some people. That key cause for feeling the blues just is not there.
Biology plays a factor sometimes and some people might be genetically predisposed to depression. Whatever the reason some of us feel down when during the joyous holiday season, it would be nice if we would allow those people the same respect to be open about how they are feeling on Christmas day as we do on Bell Let’s Talk day. The stigma of mental health should not force our loved ones to stay quiet just because it might ruin our turkey dinner, not that I’m encouraging people to ruin a meal, but if people need to be open about their mental health, there should be no stigma any day, even Christmas.
So, it might turn your Christmas from green and red to blue but if someone you know is having a rough time this season, I hope you don’t shut them out to maintain your holiday cheer.