“You are not alone”: Navigating mental health during the holiday season | Medicine

“You are not alone”: Navigating mental health during the holiday season

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – The holidays can be a bright and joyous time filled with gatherings of family and friends, but it can also be a tough time. Amanda Schara, The Director of Behavioral Health Services at UnityPoint Allen Hospital in Waterloo, said the holidays are a struggle for some.

“Holidays can be a struggle for people, it’s high stress, there can be a lot of grief that resurfaces over holidays, there can be some bad memories associated with holidays,” Schara said. “People can often feel like they’re the only ones that struggle with that, but there are quite a few people that do struggle with the holidays overall.”

Schara said more people reach out for mental health help this time of year.

“When it gets dark earlier, and it’s colder, there is an increase just in mental health symptoms that happens for people,” Schara said. “The time of year just brings that on.”

With the sun setting earlier and the temperatures dropping, it is not uncommon to deal with depression or anxiety and feel alone and lonely.

“Most people in the Midwest probably have some dip in their mood, but that doesn’t mean that they’re diagnosed with any sort of mental health condition,” Schara said. “I think that’s natural to have a little bit of a dip just in our cycle throughout the year this time of year.”

Schara said most people could deal with the symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders, but when they start to affect your daily functioning, you should seek help.

“If you’re not able to function, how you feel you should be functioning normally, then that’s a sign that’s a red flag that you might need to get assessed a little bit further,” she said.

UnityPoint Allen Hospital opened a walk-in mental health clinic to assist those who need care in the area back in October. Since then, Schara said counselors see more patients come in each day.

“There has been a lot of situations that have come in, that would have taken a long time to get some mental health services,” she said. “To see people come in and be able to get counseling or get some medication has been great to see. They walk in feeling vulnerable and upset and leave feeling more hopeful.”

She said her work at the clinic has been rewarding. It is an urgent care clinic for mental health needs, and patients can receive quick on-site counseling and medication management if needed.

The walk-in mental health clinic is an easy way to receive immediate help without waiting days or weeks to schedule an appointment at another outpatient mental health center.

“People can be left feeling very alone and lonely and shameful,” Schara said. “It just is a place to be able to process all of that and be able to look at this situation differently or find some different coping skills to manage that situation. It’s being able to support people on that journey until they feel like they can manage it a little better, a little clearer for themselves. “

The goal is to help with any immediate needs and eventually connect patients to other mental health services in the area for long-term assistance.

“It is easy, it is for us to feel like we’re the only ones that feel that way when we’re not, and it’s tough to pretend you feel a certain way about something when you don’t,” Schara said. “Whether it’s a close friend or a relative or counselor, just being able to have a place that you can be honest with how you’re feeling is a gift for people when they are struggling, whether it’s with holidays, or whether it was something completely different in your life. “

You should seek help if your sleep patterns or appetite have changed, if your symptoms affect your ability to function, struggle to find joy doing things you used to, or have suicidal thoughts.

Patients are still encouraged to visit the emergency room if they struggle with suicidal thoughts or think they might hurt themselves or others.

Schara said this time of year is an excellent time for people to assess themselves and see if they need help. If you are unsure, Schara recommended talking with a partner, close friend, or family members because they often notice you struggling before you can recognize it.

“If you happen to be struggling, there’s a lot of really great resources,” she said. “Whether you call one of our UnityPoint Health Resources, or whether you come into our walk-in clinic, and we want to be able to help you navigate whatever situation you’re dealing with.”

The mental health clinic can be found at entrance 6 of UnityPoint Allen Hospital.

The walk-in clinic is open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4:30 pm, but was closed Friday for Christmas Eve.

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