When we think about the holiday season, we are reminded of times of joy, laughter, making memories with family and friends, plenty of food and of course, gifts. But for some, this time of year can be depressing, especially when it comes to Christmas for Veterans.
Christmas, Veterans and Depression
Christmas can be hard, anxiety-inducing or even depressing for some Veterans. This is due to a number of reasons. The holidays can be a reminder of easier, better times, before the Veteran was deployed, especially if he or she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or if he or she has an injury. Another reason is that during the holidays, the Veteran might be thinking of fellow soldiers who did not make it back to celebrate. Also, if the Veteran has recently returned home, he or she might be having a hard time adjusting back into family life, social life or work, and have the added pressure to be in a festive mood and on the same page as everyone else.
If you are a family member or friend of a Veteran:
- Understand that the holidays can be a source of sadness for Veterans.
- Be on the lookout for signs of depression, such as emotional outbursts, extreme fatigue, increased alcohol consumption or drug use.
- Do not force a recently returned Veteran to talk about his or her experience “over there”; you can try talking instead about home life and how good it is to see him or her.
- If he or she wants to talk, be there to listen, but do not force him or her to attend social gatherings.
- Time spent together at the holidays does not have to be in large groups; consider sharing one-on-one time doing something you both like to do.
If you are a Veteran:
- You are not alone, and there is help. Depression is a common and highly treatable disorder that affects approximately 1 in 10 adult Americans.
- Even though it might be a challenge at holiday parties, try to limit your intake of alcohol.
- Get plenty of exercise and if possible, fresh air.
- Take time to relax and do something you enjoy by yourself.
- If you are really not up to taking part in family get-togethers and parties, do not force yourself to attend. However, try going though the motions of some of the holiday celebrations; even though you are depressed, you might just wind up having fun.
- Talk to your family or friends about how you are feeling and be honest.
Veterans who can’t seem to shake off feelings of sadness should consider speaking to a mental health professional. For immediate help, call the Veterans Crisis Line (even on Christmas) at: 800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1.
To learn about various mental health issues affecting Service members and Veterans so you can guide and support a loved one in crisis, explore the QuickSeries® library of mental health guides, including Battling Depression: Self-Help & Coping Tips.