Holiday Depression: What To Say To Friends & Family Going Through

African American Black mother and daughter happy hugging at ChristmasWhen people we love are going through depression, it’s serious. And during the holidays, this disorder can be intensified.

“I see a surge of people feeling more depressed and anxious at this time of year,” said Asha Tarry, New York-based counselor and CEO of Behavioral Health Consulting Services LMSW, PLLC. “The levels of anxiety are higher and the cycles of depression are more common. As we experience less sunlight or reminders of loss of loved ones, finances, etc., people tend to become more depressed during the holidays, or experience more of ‘the blues.’”

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Writer and motivational speaker Richard Taylor suffered from depression and suicidal behavior for 12 years. During that time, the holidays further fueled his condition.

“I always associated my value with what I could provide for family during the holidays with my success,” Taylor said. “As a college student and a young entrepreneur, I felt like a failure when I showed up empty handed or with nothing to bring during the holidays. I could be around all the people I loved and still feel lonely because I didn’t seem myself worthy of being around.”

There are ways to support your loved ones, but putting them down isn’t one of them. Here is what you should and should not say to your friends and family who may be suffering from a disorder:

Don’t say: “You don’t need a therapist.”

Instead, say: “I’ve got your back. We can find the help you need.”

Advice from family and friends is great, but sometimes, people really do need a therapist. Only about quarter of African-Americans seek mental health care compared to 40 percent of whites, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. The last thing you should do is discourage someone from reaching out to a professional for an assessment or help — someone who is actually trained to diagnose and treat depression.

“If a friend, relative or colleague have indications of someone they know feeling depressed such as crying often, irritability, restless behavior, lack of sleep or over sleeping, significant, unexplainable weight gain or loss they should redirect them to a professional right away,” Tarry said. “It’s nice to be a good friend and listen and advise. But, in some cases it’s best to not assume you’re qualified — unless you are — to handle anyone else’s issues on your own. Leave it to the professionals to step in and help people get to the root of it!”