Health experts share tips to cope with depression, loneliness this holiday season

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — The holiday season can be a tough time for people with depression and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things even more difficult, health experts said.

Monday, the South Carolina Behavioral Health Coalition and the South Carolina AARP held a virtual town hall to talk about coping with holiday stress during the pandemic.

Doctors with the American Psychological Association said 80% of the people they’ve surveyed reported experiencing stress related to the pandemic. One of the groups they are most concerned about are older adults.

Dr. Lynn Bufka said, “We’re concerned about older adults who may be more isolated. Who may have less experience with using technology to connect with others. Who may be concerned about missing out on opportunities to see children and grandchildren because they are at risk.”

Dr. Bufka and other experts recommend keeping a routine, staying connected to others and getting enough sleep.

Jennifer Butler is the Program Director for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health’s Office of Suicide Prevention. She said they don’t have real-time-data on suicides in South Carolina but know there was an increase in suicides in 2019 compared to 2018.

She said so far this year, suicide attempts have gone up among older South Carolinians according to EMS data. Butler said, “Some of our highest rates for EMS calls have been individuals 75 and older. They’ve had a noticeable increase in calling EMS for self harm thoughts and behaviors.”

Officials said hundreds of South Carolinians have called the SC-HOPES hotline. The hotline was created to assist people who are experiencing new or increased symptoms of mental illness or substance use disorder because of the pandemic. The number for the hotline is 1-844-SC-HOPES (724-6737).

If you or someone you now is going through a crisis call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)-273-8255.

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