Dealing with depression over Christmas


For some, the Christmas and holiday period isn't so merry.

While others are out celebrating with friends and family, some people find the stresses brought about by this time of year can trigger the symptoms of depression.

There are many reasons why this might be - loneliness, isolation, grief and family discord can be exacerbated by the festive season.

"If you feel like the holiday season is triggering symptoms of depression it is important to take action and learn techniques that can help you build resilience," says Dr Bruce Arroll, Professor of General Practice, School of Population Health, Auckland University. is a website that helps reduce the impact of depression in New Zealand and provides a number of ways that New Zealanders can reach out for help or guidance.

It comprises of a range of phone, text and online support to provide practical information and professional advice to help people experiencing depression.

One of the online tools available is The Journal; it is designed to guide people through techniques that can be applied to everyday life. It covers staying positive, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and how to use structured problem solving to manage mild to moderate depression.

Since it launched in 2010 more than 30,000 people have signed up to use The Journal and of those that have registered, more than 20,000 are actively using it.  

Dr Arroll says that anecdotal evidence amongst his colleagues tells us that people are approaching their GPs and saying - I feel like John Kirwan felt.

"This may sound small, but what it means is medical and mental health professionals can get on with treating the depression because people feel it is acceptable to say, this is the way I am feeling and I want to feel better," he says.

"The Journal provides a holistic approach to treating depression, which in turn means we are reaching for the prescription pad less."

If you know someone who may be having a hard time over Christmas and experiencing depression here are some tips and advice for what you can do to help them.


  • Spend time with them

  • Listen rather than talk - let them tell you how it is for them

  • Learn about depression - how it is treated and what you can do to help recovery

  • See yourself as part of their support team

  • Understand how depression is affecting their daily life

  • Help the person to recognise and find ways of dealing with things that are worrying them

  • Help and encourage them to lead a healthy life, to exercise and to do things they enjoy

  • Support and encourage them to keep getting whatever support or treatment is offered

  • Take any thoughts of suicide seriously - it's okay to talk about it. Don't leave someone alone if they feel unsafe. Contact a health care provider or a crisis phone line.


  • Tell them to 'snap out of it' or 'harden up'. People cannot 'will' themselves better from moderate or severe depression

  • Encourage excess alcohol and drug use as a coping strategy - it can make things worse

  • Avoid them - they already feel isolated and this can make their depression worse

  • Assume the problem will just go away

  • Judge or criticise them for what they're going through

  • Lose hope - they need you to believe they will get through this

  • Give unhelpful advice - for example, 'just think of people who are worse off'.

- Hamilton News

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