People feeling the pressures of Christmas were today warned to take care of their mental health over the festive period.
Worries about money, relations or loneliness can escalate in the coming weeks for men and women who are already trying to cope with the challenges of the recession and rising unemployment.
Edel Fortune, clinical manager of the Wellness and Recovery Centre at St Patrick’s University Hospital, Dublin, said Christmas can be a time of immense stress for many people.
“It can be a time which highlights issues such as loneliness and can increase financial pressures,” she said.
“As a result physical and mental health can suffer.
“However, research has shown while that suicide rates fall at Christmas, they increase directly afterwards and peak on New Year’s Day.”
Tips for surviving Christmas include not putting too much pressure on yourself, not being afraid to say no to invitations, arrange free activities outside the family home, or plan to spend Christmas with someone who may also be alone.
Ms Fortune said people should also be aware of overspending and not use alcohol as a crutch if they feel down.
“Spot signs of difficulty,” she said.
“Not sleeping, racing thoughts, overindulging in alcohol or food, anxiety and anger can all be signs that you may be overdoing it.
“Instead look after yourself. If you are well physically your mind will thank you for it.
“Eat sensibly, get enough sleep, don’t rely on alcohol and drugs to see you through, get some exercise, have some ’me’ time.”
Recent figures reveal 400,000 people experience depression at any one time, with an 11% increase in self harm among men reported in the past 12 months.
While women are three times more likely to feel down, men are more likely to die by suicide.
People who are out of work are also two to three times more likely to die by suicide than people in employment.
Ms Fortune said signs of emotional distress include low mood, anxiety, hopelessness and feeling your financial situation is out of control.
Physical changes such as poor sleep, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating anxiety and tearfulness are often subtle early warning signs that you are becoming stressed.
She warned anyone experiencing any of the above for more than two weeks to seek help by talking to a GP, calling a support service or joining a support group.
“It is essential to allow yourself time to grieve any change in finances or circumstances. Fear, anger and sadness are all natural responses,” added Ms Fortune.