• The San Juan Daily Star

ASSMCA cautions on the danger of depression at Christmas

By John McPhaul

Christmas is generally recognized by most people as a season of joy and celebration. However, for other people it could represent a period of great sadness, even depression.

Given this reality, Carlos Rodríguez Mateo, the head of the Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA by its Spanish initials), urged citizens on Monday to be alert to danger signs and to seek help in time.

“During this Christmas season, some people experience feelings of hopelessness, apathy, and prolonged deep sadness. Although this can affect people of any age, it tends to affect the adult population more and should be treated by a mental health professional,” the ASSMCA administrator said in a written statement. “Although there are situations that people can face that can cause depression, in other cases, it can appear for no apparent reason. This is known as endogenous depression.”

Recognizing that each individual is a world apart, some causes could lead to depression during Christmas are:

* Missing a loved one either because they live far away or because they passed away.

* The Christmas stress of finding the perfect gifts, holiday preparations, and overspending can also cause emotional upset.

* The end of the year and the arrival of a new one lead some people to reflect on their goals and objectives achieved. Some may become depressed at the thought that they did not achieve their outlined goals.

* Some people feel melancholy, in contrast to the almost compelling feeling of happiness associated with Christmas. This can generate frustration and cause just the opposite effect: that the discomfort intensifies.

* Christmas is the season of the year with the least daylight, with the longest nights and the coldest and rainiest weather. All of this affects one’s state of mind.

“Although depression at Christmas can turn into an emotional upheaval or worsen an existing depressive disorder, in the vast majority it can be temporary,” Rodríguez Mateo said. “However, we should never underestimate any possible depressive state. The best thing is to seek help immediately.”

He offered some further advice:

* Get organized ahead of time and don’t leave all the preparations for the last minute; don’t pretend to take care of everything, either.

* Don’t expect everything to be perfect. Try to set aside time to enjoy rest days and what you like.

* Analyze your thoughts and modify them for more positive or realistic ones if necessary.

* If you are away from loved ones, seek company and be more active than usual.

* In the face of the loss of a loved one or his or her remoteness, let the sadness flow, but do not rejoice in it. Find new activities and traditions that you do not associate with that person.

* Don’t force yourself to do anything that makes you feel bad. Participate in activities that are enjoyable for you.

What are those red flags to watch out for?

* Loss of interest or apathy to everything related to Christmas.

* Feeling upset or unhappy when coming into contact with everything related to Christmas, such as listening to Christmas carols or looking at Christmas decorations.

* Isolation and little interest in sharing with other people.

* Tiredness, listlessness and loss of vitality.

* Depressed mood for most of the day and most days.

* Extreme irritability

* Negative, self-pitying, or self-destructive thoughts.

If you or someone you love exhibits any of these signs, seek professional help, Rodríguez Mateo urged. The ASSMCA’s PAS Line: 1-800-981-0023.

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