Reach out this Christmas, says Rural Adversity Mental Health team

The festive season can trigger feelings of loneliness, isolation and or grief - and this year has its share of additional stressors as well.

RAMHP Coordinator Di Gill said 2020 had been an unprecedented year in terms of a loss of financial stressors, relationship challenges, isolation, grief, and high levels of uncertainty involved.

"If you know someone in your neighbourhood who may have been doing it tough, now is the time to reach out and check that they're okay," she said.

"Our team has developed the following useful tips which might help provide some extra support to those that really need it."

  • If you know someone experiencing grief, acknowledge that this may be the first Christmas without their loved one. Show that you care and suggest that while it may be difficult, they are welcome to join you and your family for Christmas. Alternatively, you could let them know about a community lunch.
  • If they don't want to inconvenience your family, make a plate for them, and drop it off (don't forget to add a bonbon and some Christmas cheer to the plate)
  • Invite a neighbour to come and watch Carols in the Domain or Carols by Candle lights with you and your family
  • Offer to help decorate their Christmas tree (children love doing this and could help) or perhaps help decorate a tree in their front garden - don't forget to offer to help take it down
  • If there is a frail or aged person who lives in your street or nearby and who doesn't have a lot of visitors, pop in with some treats or shortbread on a plate. (Tip: if you use your own - it gives you an excuse to go back and call in later to collect the plate and check they're okay)
  • Throw a Christmas party in your front yard. Invite your neighbours along and ask them to bring a plate to share. If you know someone who is experiencing loneliness, make a special effort to knock on their door and invite them personally
  • For those people who live away from you, make the effort to call a few days before Christmas, ask what their plans are, set a time and make sure you follow up
  • And finally, don't forget to take the opportunity to look after yourself - Christmas can be a busy time of the year. Remember you can provide alternatives to alcohol such as mocktails to celebrate (you cannot enjoy the celebration if you can't remember it). If you do notice stress in yourself it's important to recognise it and get help if you need to.

RAMHP Coordinator Di Gill also said the festive season is a time when people are expected to feel happy but for many people it can accentuate those feelings of loneliness, grief, and isolation.

"We can all do our bit to be caring, supportive listeners and good neighbours," Di said.

Where to get help

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) - contact your local RAMHP Coordinator at www.ramhp.com.au. They are not clinicians, but they can listen, provide support, and help connect people to services in their local area.

If you're concerned about your own or someone else's mental health, call the NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 for advice, Lifeline on 131114 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Online resources - Head to our website www.ramhp.com.au/downloadable-resources/ for resources including podcasts, fact sheets, self -help quiz and our new Take Time magazine.

For best practice guidelines on safe media reporting, portrayal and communication about suicide, mental ill-health, alcohol and other drugs visit https://mindframe.org.au/