Focusing on mental health this holiday season

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CULLMAN, Ala. – As we enter a time of the year where many struggle with loss, challenges and depression, remembering to take charge of your mental and physical health could help save a life this holiday season. 

According to Cullman County Coroner Jeremy Kilpatrick, so far in 2023 there have been 15 suicides, three homicides, 10 overdoses, 21 motor vehicle crash fatalities and two other deaths in accidents.

The absence of social connections can significantly compromise a person’s health and longevity.

According to United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of premature mortality by 26% and 29%, respectively.

“However, many individuals are frequently left with only recollections of departed loved ones or those with whom they have lost contact during the holiday season,” said Cullman County Sheriff’s Office Director of Communications, Lt. Chad Whaley. “We can assist those in our community by maintaining regular contact with them throughout the year, not just during the holidays.”

According to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of individuals with mental illness reported that their conditions worsened during the holiday season.

“Individuals who appear to be succeeding as well can also struggle and on occasion, individuals can conceal their anxiety or melancholy behind a courageous smile,” Whaley said. “ In reality, they would be better off discussing their true condition with someone. Being reached out to with time and effort reaffirms that we are valued and have the support of others.”

A few tips Whaley shared include: 

  • Observe with compassion
  • Patiently suggest consulting a professional
  • Engage in volunteer activities
  • Create fresh traditions
  • Dial 988 to connect with a local assistance provider

Cullman Police Department Public Relations Officer Adam Clark reminded the community to check in with people they trust. 

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to neighbors if you are struggling or in trouble,” Clark said. “Get to know your neighbors and look out for each other and be proactive in crime prevention, and mental health issues.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of self-harm, dial 988 to reach the  988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

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