Moms Columns & Blogs

Coping with mental illness & the holidays

Written by Fonda Bryant

The holidays offer opportunities for fun and family, but managing time, demands and interactions with others can also prove to be challenging. In particular, for those suffering with a mental illness, the holidays can add even more stress and anxiety to their mental health.

To that point, I’d like to not only offer some suggestions to help those who suffer with mental illness, but to also let them, their families and their friends know where to find help in a crisis.

Do something for yourself . I live by that and have since I was diagnosed with depression in 1995. After all, you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. During the holidays, which always is the coziest time of the year, buy yourself something that brings you pleasure. It doesn’t have to be expensive - maybe some bubble bath, something you like to eat or a great dinner, a pair of shoes, a good book - but something that brings a smile to your face and lifts your spirits!

Do something physical . You might not be like me and hit the gym four times a week - I do it for sanity not vanity - but there are things you can do physically to help build the natural serotonin in your brain that helps you feel better mentally. Serotonin is a chemical that affects mood, sleep and appetite. Physical activity keeps your brain occupied and can help keep depression away. Exercise and other physical activities, such as cleaning your house, dancing or going for a walk can also help your mood become more positive.

Don’t be too hard on yourself . Lastly, don’t get caught up or overwhelmed with what others have or their happiness. If you are around family and friends over the holidays, it’s sometimes easy to feel their lives are better than yours or that they have everything. It’s great that people in your life are doing well and are happy, but also remember to count your own blessings. Find the things that you are grateful for and don’t forget that there are many people who don’t have as much or are struggling in this economy. I had to remind myself of that before I found a permanent job and found my passion by volunteering with NAMI Charlotte. Doing volunteer work and giving back is a great way to not only help others but to keep yourself busy.

Additionally, keep in mind these warning signs of suicide ( and know that there are resources in our community that can help. If you, a family member, or a friend finds themselves in a crisis, please contact:

Mecklenburg County Mobile Crisis Team- 704-566-3410 (select option 1) -Mental health first responders for those individuals or groups who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) - CIT is a specialized law enforcement response to people in serious mental health crisis. These officers have gone through 40 hours of training regarding mental illness, co-occurring disorders, and response strategies. These specialized trained officers can be reached through 911 by requesting through the dispatcher.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Hotline: 800-273-8255

Mecklenburg & Cabarrus 24-Hour Call Line & Mobile Crisis Services- 800.939.5911

Mecklenburg County - Behavioral Health Center, CMC-Randolph 24-Hour Call Center-7 04.444.2400

Enjoy the holidays with family and friends and remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence!