Depression common during holiday season

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The holiday season for many is “portrayed” as a time of cheer, happiness and connection.

For many, though, that “portrayal” is just that – feeling like they are on the outside looking in. The Rev. Robert Whitaker, pastor of Victory Praise and Worship Center and a licensed counselor, said depression can be “cyclic.”

“From October to around Valentine’s Day this is the worst time, mostly because people start to look at who they are or who they are not,” he said. “(It could be) frustrations over failed relationships or no relationships. That makes this time of year the most difficult.”

Whitaker explained depression could be cyclic, meaning seasonal, a chemical imbalance or situational. Circumstances in a person’s environment could cause depression.

Mental Health America, an organization with 228 affiliates in 41 states, including Louisiana, says depression can be caused by a number of things.

“For some people, a number of factors seem to be involved, while for others a single factor can cause the illness,” the website indicates. “Oftentimes, people become depressed for no apparent reason.”

Clinical depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting more than 19 million Americans each year, MHA reports.

Some symptoms include (Source: MHA):

Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood

Sleeping too much or too little, middle of the night or early morning waking

Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain

Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex

Restlessness, irritability

Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive orders)

Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions

Fatigue or loss of energy

Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless

Thoughts of suicide or death

Whitaker said there are steps a person can take to combat depression, including seeking professional help.

“Surround yourself with positive people,” he said. “Look for opportunities to enjoy yourself. Sometimes we spend a lot of time frustrated and we isolate ourselves. That contributes to depression. Put yourself in a position to be happy.”

Some might say, “Well, I don’t have any friends,” Whitaker continued.

“If you don’t have any friends, go to places that are friendly. Get around people who are positive. The key is don’t isolate yourself.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of prayer, and when you’re feeling broken, just remember that God created you, and you are perfectly made,” Whitaker said. “I believe one way to overcome depression is turning to God. To overcome depression, one way is not turning to religion, but getting a right relationship with God. A glimmer of hope is all it takes to overcome depression.”

Betty Purdy, site manager and outreach coordinator of the Webster Council on Aging, said this is a difficult time of the year for some elderly.

“Really and truly it starts before Thanksgiving, because Thanksgiving is a holiday that is family-oriented, and Christmas as well,” Purdy said. “By the time Christmas gets here, they’re just really depressed and they’d rather the holiday go on by and not participate at all.”

Purdy said the COA offers activities during the day in which seniors can get out of their homes and be around people. The agency offers games and other activities as well as time to just sit and fellowship with each other.

Lunch is served every day.

Trips are also planned, she said, and Tuesday, Dec. 9, seniors will be going to Shreveport to see Christmas lights and eat. The parish wide Christmas party is planned for 10 a.m. at the Minden Civic Center for anyone aged 60 and older. A traditional Christmas meal will be served for a $2 fee. Entertainment will be provided.

And for those who are alone and/or have no transportation, the Office of Community Services offers transportation and will pick them up at their home and transport them to the Council on Aging center.

Purdy said it would be a great idea if neighbors of an elderly person or couple go by and check on them, call them or even send them a card. Sometimes, that’s all it takes, she said.

“A lot of them just get down,” she said. “They think their families have forgotten them, or they don’t care for them anymore. And some of them don’t have families. We try to give them something.”

For anyone who needs transportation, call the Office of Community Services at 377-7022 to schedule a ride to the senior citizen center.

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