Christmas not always a joyous time for all

CHRISTMAS is portrayed as a time of joy, but mental health advocates say financial strain, family difficulties and high expectations can make it a difficult time for many.

According to Mental Health Council of Tasmania chief executive Darren Carr, Christmas is often a time of ``high mental distress''.

Mr Carr said that for many people, the stereotype of Christmas being a happy family time was far removed from reality.

``A lot of people feel a lot of pressure at Christmas,'' Mr Carr said.

``We all see this wonderful family paradigm where everyone's getting on well and everybody loves each other, but of course that's not the reality for many people.

``It's also a time when people can really feel a sense of loss, or have had a loss, like a death or divorce, or a separation from children and parents.''

Relationships Australia's counselling manager for Northern Tasmania Tim Henry said it was important that people had realistic expectations for Christmas, and focused on their strengths instead of what they didn't have.

``We can often get stuck trying to recreate previous Christmases, but as our families change it's a chance to start some new rituals and new habits, and to keep exploring what Christmas means to us today,'' Mr Henry said.

Tasmania's chief psychiatrist Len Lambeth advised people to ask for help if they needed it, and offer support to friends and family who might be having a difficult time.

The Department of Health and Human Services continues to provide services over the Christmas and New Year period.

Full details of services can be found online at www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/

features/holidayhours

 If you need help or counselling contact Lifelink Samaritans 1300 364 566, Lifeline 131 114, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800, MensLine Australia 1300 789 978, or the StandBy Response Service 24-hour number on 0408 133 884,    beyondblue 1300 224 636.

KEY POINTS

Dr Len Lambeth's tips for reducing stress this Christmas:

  Have realistic expectations of what you and others can achieve throughout this busy time.

 Look after your physical health - prioritise taking time out for yourself to get enough sleep and do some daily exercise.

 Avoid relying on drugs and alcohol to relax or cope with stressful situations.

 Let your friends and family know they can talk to you if they need to, without fear of judgment or reprisal.

 If someone shares their concerns with you, take them seriously, and help them to find a solution.

 Remember, if you need more support, help is at hand with professional services available right throughout the festive season.

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