How can you support someone at Christmas? | Mental Health First Aid

Christmas can add additional strain for those that have recently started getting help for mental ill health, for those with a long term mental illness, or someone in recovery.

Christmas can also be a period when there are a lot of triggers for relapse. Remember to check on those you know may be struggling and keep an eye out for signs that someone is not coping.

  • For people with depression or anxiety disorders, or any other mental health problem, the pressures at the end of year and changes to their usual routine can bring about a worsening or relapse. If you can make yourself available to be a support, reach out and make the offer.
  • With Christmas parties and other social events, it can be hard for those with alcohol or other drug use problems to keep on track. If you are having a Christmas party of your own, think about making it an alcohol-free event. If this doesn’t suit you, make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available. There are non-alcoholic options that you can have on hand that still have a festive spirit.
  • For people with eating disorders, and those who are in recovery, the sheer amount and variety of food which is often present at Christmas events can be very difficult to cope with. Try not to comment on what the person does or doesn’t eat and try to focus on conversations that aren’t about food, weight or body shape. While food is often a focus this time of year, try to find other ways to spend time with people, and create other family rituals for the future.
  • If you know someone who is struggling with mental ill health that will be alone for Christmas, think about inviting them to join you on the day. If you're unable to invite them, see if you can organise another time to visit the person.
  • Christmas can also be a real struggle for someone who has experienced grief or loss in the last year. They may appreciate your efforts to include them, even if they don't feel up to spending the day with others.

If you’re not sure of what to say or how to help someone, services such as Lifeline can provide advice and guidance on how to help.

You may also find that if you’ve been giving support to someone that you start to feel overwhelmed. Make time to take care of yourself, even if it’s just to spend some time on your own, go for a walk or read a book. It’s important to take care of yourself, so that you can take care of others.

We wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and fulfilling start to the New Year.