It's that time of year when we wish friends and colleagues seasonal greetings. ScOPT is a Scottish organisation... so hae yersel a braw wee Christmas and a very happy Hogmanay when it comes 🙂

This time is also filled with multicultural observances and celebrations, many of which are not as widely recognised in the UK. While the holidays and observances range from somber to joyful, they represent common themes and emotions that can help us better understand each other. Acting inclusively doesn't mean sending out politically correct Happy Holidays greeting cards. Celebrating inclusiveness and diversity is about more than just changing labels and titles... it's about using the holiday celebration time with friends and family to build understanding and awareness about others.

While typically hectic and potentially stressful, it can also bring the comfort of annual traditions, time with family and friends, and a break from work. But during a global pandemic? It's one more aspect of our lives that will be upended and disrupted!

Any for many, it may also be a time of sadness or worry caused by the loss of a loved one, loneliness, debt and money anxieties or mental illness.

Around 80,000 older people in Scotland say they feel lonelier at Christmas time than at any other time of year, according to research from Age Scotland - whilst research by Mind a couple of years ago revealed that millennials also struggle not only with isolation but stress and anxiety during what is supposed to one of the happiest times of the year: one in 10 people aged between 25 and 34 said that they have no one to spend Christmas with, compared with one in 20 older people. Mind has collated some resource which explain how the period around Christmas and New Year might affect mental health and gives tips on how to cope and suggestions for supporting someone else.

It can also be difficult for people who have become estranged from their family or children. Happy families seem to be everywhere during the festive period and pictures of the idyllic family Christmas can trigger feelings of inadequacy for those that have become estranged from their family or children. StandAlone have produced a guide intended to help with some of the most common festive frustrations and give you an idea of how people cope with the season.

Living with a mental health problem can make coping even more difficult. Mental illness transcends all ages and backgrounds. Almost one in four adults have a mental illness at some point in their lives, such as stress, anxiety, depression or psychosis. And at a time when the rest of the nation is busy celebrating, there are many who just cannot, rather than will not, be able to do so because of their mental ill health. Indeed their inability to join in on the fun can exacerbate their isolation. SAMH have a couple of useful blog posts about Christmas being a double edged sword, and how to cope with social anxiety during the festive season.

The festive season can be stressful for families living with dementia, but there are things you can do to ensure everybody enjoys the festivities. Here are five key tips for creating a dementia friendly environment at Christmas, and more tips for families dealing with dementia at Christmas.

Christmas can be a challenging time for carers too. Having to care, unpaid, for a friend or family member due to an illness, disability, mental health problem or addiction they have is difficult enough without the other stresses of the season, and it’s easy to see how this time of year can become all too much.

And it can also be a somewhat stressful and anxiety-provoking time for students, on top of all the uncertainty and upheaval that they've already faced this year! Recent research claims that 82% of students suffer from stress and anxiety, yet only 25% of students experiencing this said they would seek help - the others admitted being too embarrassed, think it’s waste of time, or don’t even know where to find help. All universities and colleges have support services for students, and Student Minds is a charity that aims to empower students and members of the university community to develop the knowledge, confidence and skills to look after their own mental health, support others and create change.

So, whatever your faith, whatever your culture, whatever your circumstances... let's all try to be more aware and understand more about each other. We hope you can enjoy a little bit of a break - and if you're providing a service throughout the festive period, thank you. If you're supporting a student involved with providing a service, thank you.

Nollaig Chridheil Huibh!
The ScOPT Trustees

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