Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, 5th District, co-hosted a holiday mental health webinar aimed at highlighting mental health issues surrounding the stress of the holiday season.
Barger said some of her legislative priorities are dedicated to finding mental health solutions and proposing resolutions aimed at doing so.
“I have strategically focused on introducing mental health initiatives because without support, mental health problems can quickly snowball and have a deep, debilitating impact on all of our lives,” said Barger. “Most of all, our societal challenges like homelessness, child abuse, and domestic violence have a nexus to mental health trauma.”
The webinar was done last week in coordination with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health and featured two guests, Lisa Wong and Jorge Partida – both from the Mental Health Department.
“Despite the cheery decor, festive gatherings that accompany the holidays, this time of year can be a challenge for many of us,” said Wong.
Wong said statistics gathered by the American Psychological Association found that over a third of Americans’ stress increased during the holidays. In addition, almost two-thirds living with a mental illness felt that their condition worsened during the holidays.
While suicides have increased since the pandemic, suicides do not increase in rate during the holidays, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In fact, it actually decreases. The CDC has labeled this a myth: “The holiday suicide myth supports misinformation about suicide that might ultimately hamper prevention efforts.”
However, this does not mean symptoms of mental illness or issues surrounding the holidays don’t happen – they do.
“For some of us, the holiday season can pose challenges brought on by many reasons,” said Wong. “Maybe recently losing a loved one, especially having gone through COVID, financial hardship, experiencing conflict with family members – which just gets amplified during [gatherings].”
Wong suggested that feelings of anxiety, stress and depression are possible to be prevented, or at least avoided, saying that if the holiday season, or specific events, have caused these feelings in the past, it’s OK to avoid them.
“First start by acknowledging your feelings, don’t feel like you have to be happy if you’re not,” said Wong. “First realize it’s normal sometimes to feel sad and that you have the right to your feelings.”
Wong noted that this is especially true in the event of losing a loved one or not being able to be with loved ones during the holidays. But, if this situation were to occur, one should seek out other forms of community – whether it be religious, social or communal. Wong also noted that helping others, including neighbors, is another way to combat the holiday blues.
Partida noted how events surrounding the pandemic, whether directly or indirectly related to it, can affect us all in the form of trauma. Partida also said the Mental Health Department has looked into the potential triggers of depression and anxiety during the holidays.
“We do recognize that this time is a time for us to analyze and to take stock of what has happened in the past year,” said Partida. “More and more we recognize that there are tragic and traumatic events that we all have collectively dealt with.