Effects of stress, depression and anxiety during the festive season

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The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) says the festive period can lead to stress and psychological trauma for some people.

As the festive season approaches, not everyone can afford to splurge on gifts, holidays, clothes or fancy meals.

Some don’t even have loved ones to share meals or any special moment with.

Shopping malls are busy, and restaurants are packed with families having meals together.

Parents are planning fun family activities with kids who are going on school holidays.

The festive season is upon us and as the saying goes, “tis the season to be jolly”.

However, the glitter, bells and whistles do not bring any festive cheer to some like young mother, Refilwe Pieterse.

“I do not have money to spend this festive season. I can’t even afford to buy clothes for my daughter. It has been very tough year for me, and I have not been able to recover since COVID.”

Financial stresses

Cassey Chambers from SADAG says the festive season comes with a lot of stress for those with financial problems.

“You know, going into the festive season, we’re surrounded with even going into shops now. And everything is sales and gifts and decorations and there’s so much pressure on the festive season. We see this in the movies, we see this in advertisements and big special sale days. We have this and the pressure on what you’re getting, where you’re going and what you’re doing over the holiday season. And all of this can be really expensive and for a lot of South Africans, this year has been very difficult and especially those that are dealing with poverty or unemployment or retrenchment or even losing a breadwinner in a family can be incredibly difficult. That idea of just getting through December and getting through the holidays is really hard. A lot of people who do have a job aren’t secure in getting a 13th cheque or a bonus or financial stress and strain just having to survive such a year. So, there’s lots of different stresses and contributing factors to the financial strain that so many people are dealing with and that causes increased levels of anxiety and stress and sleeplessness and worry that could lead to more serious issues such as depression or suicide.”

Chambers says beyond finances, this period is generally a very difficult time for some South Africans, especially those who do not get to spend time with their loved ones.

“It’s not always as the movies portray it to be with families getting together having lots of food and everyone being happy and for a lot of people, holidays are incredibly difficult and particularly these holidays coming up now. It could be the first Christmas that someone has to work and not be able to travel home to see their loved ones. It could also be the first Christmas or holiday season that someone has been unemployed and doesn’t have the money to get through the month. It can also be the first Christmas or the fifth Christmas without a dear loved one. And for many South Africans, they feel really lonely and really depressed over the holiday season.)

Emotional rollercoaster

Bongani Manzini has been on an emotional rollercoaster for years.

“Firstly, it’s how I grew up. I was raised by my father, but I was supported by my mom…throughout my life my father has not been a good candidate via raising me cause my mum ended up quitting her job so that she sees (I) am fine and well fed. In short, I would say my mom appreciated my life more than my dad, but I lived with my dad almost all my life.”

Manzini says because of not having a caring father, he wanted to be a better man and always be there for his child. However, he’s lost his child and his grief overwhelms him.

“How do I continue to live…I’m going through a lot, it’s not easy.”

Suicidal callers

Chambers says a lot of calls they receive are from people feeling suicidal and seeking help.

“At the moment we’re dealing with around 3 000 calls per day from people throughout the country reaching out for help. So, while we don’t see a spike in the number of suicides, we do know that one in four calls to setting off suicide related so it is a very difficult time. Block calling in or the nature of the calls are more around grief, loneliness, trauma, depression, as well as suicide and people reaching out for help.”

Those that are going into the holiday season feeling lonely, financially under pressure or depressed have been advised to seek help.

The number for SADAG’s 24-hour Helpline is 0800 456 789.