Christmas is traditionally seen as a time of joy and celebration, but for many people yuletide can bring stress and loneliness, so the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding people of the importance of looking after their own mental health and that of their family and friends over the holiday period.
Madeline Heaney, PHA Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement (North), said: “Most of us look forward to the Christmas break as a relaxing time to be spent with family and friends. For some however, this is a very difficult time, perhaps because of the expense, stress, loss of a loved one or feelings of isolation or loneliness. This Christmas, we should all look after our own mental health and look out for our relations, friends and neighbours.
“It is important to look out for behaviour that could indicate that someone is under pressure and really needs help. More information on looking after your mental health, and the support available across Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info”
Amid all the flurry of Christmas, taking time out to remember a few simple ways to protect your mental wellbeing over the holidays could make all the difference. These include:
- Don’t be afraid to give and accept support – being available for others if they need support should encourage them to be there for you too.
- Make time for family and friends.
- Knowing who you are, think about and try to do what makes you really happy, and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself.
It is also true that some people may experience more troubled feelings at this time of the year, even thinking about suicide. It is very difficult to predict when someone is feeling so unwell but the following signs and risk factors could help identify that someone is thinking of suicide – the more warning signs and risk factors, the higher the possible risk:
- a suicide attempt or act of self-harm;
- expressing suicidal thoughts;
- preoccupation with death;
- becoming isolated;
- alcohol and/or drug abuse;
- sudden changes in mood or behaviour;
- making ‘final’ arrangements, eg giving away possessions.
Madeline Heaney added: “If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow-up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at www.lifelinehelpline.info”
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611
Notes to the editor
- Please include the lifeline number in your article (and any subsequent coverage on the subject of promoting mental health and suicide prevention):
Call Lifeline: 0808 808 8000 if you need confidential support services and advice. This is a free helpline service available 24/7. You can also access the website www.lifelinehelpline.info
- Please abide by the Samaritans/Irish Institute of Suicidology media guidelines on suicide: www.samaritans.org/pdf/IrishMediaGuidelines2009.pdf. These are not the same as the PCC guidelines.
- Protect Life: A Shared Vision was launched in 2006: www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/phnisuicidepreventionstrategy_action_plan-3.pdf
- Promoting Mental Health Strategy: http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/promoting_mental_health.pdf