Look Out for Someone this Christmas

Christmas is a time of giving, but that doesn’t have to mean presents. Your time is precious and giving your time to someone else is a great gift. Could you commit to looking out for someone who may find the festivities difficult?

We’re Not all Living the Christmas Dream

Marketing companies would have us believe that Christmas is full of joy and magic, but that dream doesn’t match everyone’s reality. In fact, the pressure to live up to those ideals and failure to meet those expectations can be the cause of anxiety and depression.

Back in 2015, a survey conducted by Mind* revealed that challenges including debt, loneliness and stress caused 36% of individuals with a mental health condition to self-harm at Christmas. In addition, 45% had considered suicide. The survey also detailed panic attacks and insomnia as issues that peaked during the festive season.

Also in 2015, the Journal of Affective Disorders analysed suicide data and found that the highest death rate was recorded on New Year’s Day. This data isn’t current, but the issues are.

It is well documented that divorce rates peak in January. Couples stay together through Christmas, to avoid ruining the festivities for children and other family members, but separate when life returns to some normality in the New Year. In addition, reports of domestic violence increase over Christmas, with hundreds of thousands of calls made to UK domestic violence helplines and the police.

Christmas is also a time when we all feel the pressure to spend. Many people spend more than they can afford and this means starting the New Year in a position of financial difficulty.

How Can We Make a Difference?

Some of your friends, colleagues, neighbours or family members may not be feeling joyous at Christmas. There is no magic sprinkling of fairy dust that can transform their situation and even a large box of chocolates isn’t going to turn things around. However, you can make a difference by giving your time.

Do you know someone who is going through a tough time? Why not ask if you can pop over or invite them out for a walk? They may not have much to say or they might offload, but simply being there and accepting them as they are can make a difference. If they talk, listen. If conversation dries up you might suggest a card game or watching a film together. It’s your company that is important.

If you are aware that they are facing particular struggles, you could help them plan a coping strategy and provide them with the details of a helpline or other source of support. For example, if an older relative or neighbour will be alone, tell them about Reengage and help them search for local events. If you know someone in a violent relationship, help them download the TecSOS, Zoteria or Bright Sky app.

You might not be able to see them in person over the festive period, but you can arrange a time to call. Keep your promises to let them know that they are important and that you care.

Volunteer Opportunities

Another way to look out for someone this Christmas is by volunteering. Most towns and cities will be hosting community events over Christmas and need help to run them. The BIG Issue has shared a range of Christmas volunteering opportunities, so take a look and see if any appeal: https://www.bigissue.com/news/activism/volunteering-on-christmas-day-how-you-can-get-involved/

Volunteering is also great if you aren’t looking forward to Christmas and want a distraction. Being part of something bigger, meeting new people and bringing a smile to someone’s face can lift your spirits.

The True Spirit of Christmas

By looking out for someone and offering them our time, we embrace the true spirit of Christmas. Our actions can help them cope and give them hope that things can get better.


* https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/mind-warns-that-people-with-mental-health-problems-struggle-with-self-harm-and-suicidal-feelings-due-to-the-pressure-of-christmas/