DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
The winter and holiday season often brings a sense of positivity, giving and cheer for many people. It is also associated with warmth and joy for some, but for others it is a time of depression and loneliness.
For some Airmen, especially those who are spending the holiday season away from family and friends, these negative emotions can impact their work and personal life, hindering both mission quality and quality of life for those same Airmen and their families: this is commonly known as holiday blues or holiday depression.
“Holiday depression occurs when people feel the anxiety and stress during the months of November and December,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Crockett, 7th Medical Operations Squadron mental health technician. “Even though the holidays are supposed to be a happy time, for some, it is a time of anxiety and loneliness. Many are away from their families or stressed due to financial concerns and interpersonal issues.”
Depression is a mental condition and can’t be passed from one to another like the flu, but there are people who are more vulnerable of experiencing it, Crockett said.
“Airmen without family or other social support systems are the most at risk,” Crockett said. “Those who socially isolate themselves, whether by choice or external circumstance, are more prone to feel ‘down’ during the holiday season. These individuals may see other people spending time with friends and family and ask themselves, ‘Why can't that be me?’ or ‘Why is everyone else so much happier than I am?’"
According to the base chapel, Airmen who are able to spend little time with their support system over the holiday season and those who have experienced a large life change are the most at risk for experiencing holiday or seasonal depression. To ensure Airmen are taken care of, there are multiple sources for them to seek out for help.
“Chaplains, mental health and military family life counselors are excellent resources if someone is having a difficult time,” said Maj. Martin Booth, former 7th Bomb Wing chaplain. “Going to the Soul Fire Café, bowling alley and hangar center can also help, as it gets Airmen out of the dorms to interact and connect with others.”
Airmen are also encouraged to utilize the four domains of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness in dealing with personal hardships such as holiday depression. These domains include physical, mental, spiritual and social forms of improving personal resiliency.
According to the base chapel staff, some things that can help Airmen in times of stress include attending worship services, attending local and base events and activities, finding a good workout routine or trying out new hobbies.
Though Airmen have personal resources and tools to help themselves through hardships, Booth said he believes it’s always important for others to help when they can.
“If someone notices that a friend is acting differently, or shying away from activities they’re normally passionate about, they should get involved and see what they can do to help,” Booth said. “Invite that Airman into your house, go out somewhere with them—putting ourselves in motion to help others is often therapeutic for both.”
Airmen who are experiencing difficulties and needing help are encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), Mental Health at (325) 696-5380 or the Chapel at (325) 696-4224 (after-hours access to the Chapel staff can be reached through Base Operations at (325) 696-1921).