Depression can be part of holiday struggles

Dec. 27, 2012 @ 05:00 AM

While the winter holiday season is often thought of as a joyous time, for some people it's the source of new or renewed struggles.

Marilyn Gilliam, quality management training director for Advance Behavioral Center in Sanford, said many people battle with depression just before Christmas, in large part because the season can elicit painful memories.

"The holidays are normally a difficult time for people," she said. "It's a reminder of the losses they have had around this time. There's loneliness, and it's usually on the onset of the holidays that people experience bouts of depression."

She suggested people who suffer from depression around the holidays — or during any other time of year — seek counseling, since professionals can help people learn how to deal with or even get rid of the triggers which might make their depression worse.

Gilliam also leads a mental health task force under LeeCAN, a partnership between the Lee County Public Health Department and various private health care groups. She said there has been an increased focus lately on getting local medical and mental health providers to work together — a partnership she said could be especially helpful to people trying to cope with death, injury or illness in the family by encouraging doctors to refer more patients and their family members to mental health experts in the area.

The Lee County Enrichment Center also offers grief counseling to local seniors, plus a wide variety of social opportunities in the form of women's groups, veterans' groups and groups open to all. Gilliam said socializing with family or friends can go a long way toward helping people battle their depression simply by reminding them of those who care about them.

"If they have someone in their family they can share their feelings with to know they're not alone, that can help," she said.

In addition to programs from LeeCAN or the Enrichment Center, there are many resources available to locals of all ages in need of counseling or other help.

The county's public transit system, COLTS, offers free or reduced-cost transportation to people referred by public or private mental health providers. For children or their guardians, the Lee County Department of Youth and Family Services provides social and psychological services to young people in the area in need of mental help, as well as parenting classes directed by a staff psychologist.

Gilliam said people can contact the Advance Behavioral Center, located at 317 Chatham St., for information about local support groups or individual counseling. People trying to help themselves or a friend or family member can also find more information on support groups, treatment and other mental health issues from the National Alliance on Mental Illness online at, which also has contact information for local chapters.