Christmas and mental health

Dr Richard Schweizer shares the experience of Christmas when living with a mental illness. 15 Nov 2017.

Christmas & New Year are a time of challenge for those who suffer mental illness.

15 Nov 2017

So Christmas and New Year are fast approaching. A special time for many people, but also a time of challenge for those who are isolated or suffer mental illness.

Around this time of year, I think of the words of the John Lennon song 'Happy Xmas (War is Over)' 

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

“The world is so wrong”… in those simple words, so much meaning.

I can tell you that for people living with a mental illness, the world is so wrong. Suffering the symptoms of the illness; suffering the indignity of the condition, suffering from the stigma, suffering from isolation, we live in a world that still does not truly understand or empathise with what people who have mental illness are going through.

Indeed, the Christmas season can be particularly difficult for those with mental illness.

Rates of depression, anxiety and loneliness typically grow at this time of year. Many people with mental illness have estranged family members and can feel more isolated at a time of year when families come together. Difficult relationships can escalate into conflict over the Christmas table and people with serious, episodic illness like schizophrenia or bipolar see their symptoms flare up.

Of course, these problems may be exacerbated by the fact that many mental health professionals go on holiday over this period; people in serious distress may have nowhere to go.

“Let’s stop all the fight”… again, simple words, but so much meaning.

We must stop the factional in-fighting and point-scoring that characterise our politics these days. We need politicians to come together, whatever their stripes, and commit to serving people with mental illness. To really make sure the mental health system works in all its facets and for all people who need help.

Christmas is a time for sharing, for giving, for coming together, for gifts, for love, and to make those wishes for a New Year.

What is on my Christmas wish list? Why, peace and love of course! Although perhaps more concretely, I wish for a world kinder to those in mental distress. I wish for acceptance and empathy. I wish that all people have places to go to celebrate with people they love. I wish for respect for all people from all walks of life.

Merry Christmas to all, and a happy New Year! 

Dr Richard Schweizer lives with schizophrenia. You can read more about his journey here


Dr Richard Schweizer

Dr Richard Schweizer - Photo Credit