Holidays Can Be Deadly for Some
“For those who have no support system, no friends, family, loved ones or even co-workers, the holidays can prove very deadly,” according to Mark DeSilva, MD, medical director, Emergency Department, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. “Everywhere, there are signs of gatherings, gift exchanges, happiness and love. If you are not experiencing what the rest of the world is enjoying, it is very bitter.”
“The holidays bring out desperate behavior in unstable individuals and they frequently end up in the Emergency Department as a medical emergency.”
The downturn in the economy has also contributed to depression and engagement in risky behavior.
“Loss of a job or the unavailability of extra money for presents for loved ones can lead to low self-esteem and contribute to the person’s making poor choices,” said DeSilva.
Often there are signs when a person may be feeling overwhelmed. And opportunities to intervene.
Here are DeSilva’s five tips to identify individuals who may be emotionally vulnerable during the holidays:
Isolated behavior – “Most people are busy going to social gatherings, shopping, attending events and connecting with friends,” says DeSilva. “Look for those who shun social interaction or who consistently do not attend events that they say they will.”
Angry mood – “The person expresses sarcasm, unhappiness or criticism of others’ joy in the season and is consistently pessimistic,” says DeSilva.
Excessive drug or alcohol use – “Beer or cocktails, readily available throughout the holidays, or illegal drugs, are overindulged to numb the pain the individual is feeling and offer an escape from reality,” said DeSilva.
Excessive sleeping - “Depression often takes the guise of extreme fatigue or tiredness. The body shuts down to form an escape from the everyday world,” says DeSilva.
Missing frequently from work/social activities – “Facing others who are happy and bright is often too difficult for those feeling the holiday blues,” says DeSilva. “They may be consistently absent or very late to work or no-shows at anticipated social engagements.”
Lend a Helping Hand
If you see signs of extreme behavior in a friend, family member or acquaintance, act immediately. “Talk to the individual and tell them the behavior that you are seeing and offer to help,” says DeSilva. “There are social services, community groups, churches and other programs that can intervene.”
“By recognizing when a person is in trouble, and speaking out, you may not only save them a trip to the Emergency Department, but also save a life,” says DeSilva.