It’s okay not to be okay this festive season - and SADAG will be on hand to help these holidays

File image.

File image.

Published Dec 9, 2022


Johannesburg - It’s that time of year when tinsel, Christmas decorations and twinkly lights can be seen almost everywhere we go.

Our social media feeds are plagued with images of happy families, Christmas trees, holiday snapshots and exclamations about how incredible the joy of the festive season is.

But The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) explained that for many, the holiday season is a challenging one.

“For many, the festive season is filled with loneliness, reminders of the ones we’ve lost and unimaginable grief that feels crippling as well as so many of us feeling burnt out and depressed coming towards the end of the year,” they said.

Africa's largest mental health support and advocacy group added that while there are many articles that cover coping with grief during the holidays and provide oversimplified tips on what to do to feel better, at SADAG they understand that this can be a lot easier said than done.

“And that most of the time, what we are really in need of is a listening ear to provide a space where we are allowed to not be okay.”

In a bid to assist those mentally suffering during the festive season SADAG counsellors will be available on a 24/7 basis during the holidays to offer support to those going through grief and loneliness.

“We are here to remind you that it’s okay not to be okay over the festive season,” they said.

“We understand that grief can take on many different shapes and forms including the loss of loved ones, relationships, jobs and financial security and that the festive season can be a bitter reminder of this loss.”

SADAG added that many people who experience depression, anxiety and stress during the holidays are told, or believe that they should just ‘get over it’.

“But having the ‘holiday blues’ is more than just a down-day and it isn’t something you can just ‘will’ yourself out of.”

“Family, friends and loved ones may not understand what you are going through and feeling.”

SADAG believes that it is important to realise that grief isn't something that leaves us after we've gone through the five stages of mourning.

“Grief is something that we learn to carry with us and the lenses through which we view the event or loss of a person change at different points of our lives.”

“It's not about getting over your grief or putting on a mask and pretending that you're okay just for the benefit of others over the festive season.”

SADAG Clinical Psychologist, Liane Lurie explained that grief needs to be felt.

“If it is not worked through and not processed, it'll manifest in other areas of our lives that may cause difficulties in future relationships and more."

"We know that the festive season can be very difficult for many people, and while we don’t see a spike or increase in the number of calls that SADAG receives over the holidays, the reason for people calling in for help is due to loneliness, grief, loss, stress, depression and trauma.”

“It is critical that SADAG is open and providing free telephone counselling throughout the holiday season – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including Christmas Day and New Years – for anyone who is in need of help, crisis intervention and support,” Lurie said.

“Even with load shedding and the impact on networks and signal, anyone who wants to reach out to a counsellor can SMS (31393), whatsapp (087 163 2030) or fill in a contact form on the SADAG website, and a counsellor will call them back,” SADAG’s Call Center Manager, Tracy Feinstein said.

“We are here to help anyone who needs support, counselling or crisis intervention during this difficult time of the year,” Feinstein said.

“It is okay to feel isolated, sad and even annoyed by the excitement of the festive season, we are here to offer you understanding, care and a place to go when it all feels like it’s too much to cope with. You are not alone this festive season.”

The Saturday Star