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Holidays and Teen Depression

By Joan Gabrielson, Executive Director

For many people, the holidays are a time of colorful decorations, celebrations with friends and family gatherings. However, for some it is a time of unmet expectations, loneliness, crisis and sadness. For teens, it can be an especially difficult time of sadness, depression and substance abuse. The holidays can be a difficult time for many reasons.

* Hoping for the biggest and brightest holiday ever and struggling with unmet expectations
* Going back to school and comparing unhappy holidays with friend's stories of happy experiences
* Having family time that is filled with tension, stress and crisis
* Listening to feuding divorced parents
* Waiting for absent parents to call
* Sensing parent's anxiety from overspending and worrying about soon to arrive credit card bills
* "Celebrating" with friends by using drugs or alcohol
* Feeling sad due to wintertime's shorter days and less sunlight

You can work together as a family to help your teen deal with holiday sadness:

* Schedule a family game night
* Go to a favorite movie
* Help someone in need
* Set realistic expectations
* Make a party of decorating the house
* Invite your teen's friends over for a movie and popcorn
* Spend within your budget
* Spend time with positive, supportive people
* Recognize and set realistic expectations
* Enjoy holiday foods in moderation
* Get plenty of rest
* Plan a fun family activity out of doors
* Plan a reasonable number of activities, don’t over commit
* Plan ahead. Set priorities and budgets before the holidays
* If family is not available start your own tradition and spend it with friends or with family of friends

If feelings of sadness and hopelessness persist for more than two weeks, or if they worsen, contact your doctor or a mental health center for outpatient care. If your teen is having suicidal thoughts or giving away their possessions, seek immediate care. Call your doctor or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. If your teenage daughter needs residential care, you or your mental health agency can contact Excelsior and talk with us about our short term intensive treatment program.