Turn2Me CEO Fiona O’Malley said that for a lot of people the festive season can cause people to recognise they are struggling. Photo: Priscilla du Preez

Turn2Me if you’re finding Christmas difficult

By Katie O’Keeffe

An online mental health charity has stated it expects an increase in demand for its services over the festive period.

Turn2Me CEO Fiona O’Malley said that for a lot of people the festive season can cause people to recognise they are struggling.

She told the Cork Independent: “Longer periods of time spent around family members can make people realise how dysfunctional the relationships are. Some people can also feel very lonely at Christmas or they can really struggle with grief, particularly if it's their first Christmas without a loved one.”

Turn2Me has launched a free Christmas Blues support group which will run over the Christmas period which Fiona explains is a free service facilitated by a mental health professional and are a form of peer support.

She said: “People can talk about the issues they're facing over the Christmas period and the psychotherapist facilitating the group can help them work through these issues.”

“The Christmas period is something most people look forward to,” the CEO said, “but it can be a really difficult period for so many people too, particularly if they’ve lost a loved one and are facing their first Christmas without them.

“It can also be very challenging for people who have anxiety or depression, which can be exacerbated by of the amount of socially demanding situations over the festive season. It can be a difficult time for anyone in a bad relationship. The cracks can worsen during a period of spending a lot of time together or apart from one another, and people can compare their relationships to the ones we see glimpses of on social media.”

At this time of year Turn2Me seems a wide demographic of people with users ranging from the age of 12 to 76, with the most popular age group between the ages of 25 and 45. Around 55% of users identify as female and around 40% identify as male, but these figures change every month.

The charity is trying to reach more young people, including teenagers and college students, with their services, because research shows that anxiety and depression levels are quite high in this demographic.

“Our priority is to reach as many people with our free mental health services as possible. The more people we reach, the more people we can help. We firmly believe that early intervention is the best preventative measure. That's one of the reasons I would encourage anyone who has any level of anxiety or depression to reach out, don't wait until it escalates and gets worse.”

Suzanne Ennis, Clinical Manager at Turn2Me said: “Christmas isn’t a jolly time for everyone. Family or social get-togethers are not always joyous occasions. Stress levels can be at an all-time high for people before, in the middle and after Christmas.

“There is the societal expectation that we are all in high spirits, festive, feeling generous and want to celebrate. The reality for a lot of people is vastly different. Comparisons are made, we tend to fall short of them, and think what is wrong with me?”

She added: “It is important to remember that we are all only human, if you are struggling, cannot seem to get on top of things. Reach out for assistance, seek professional support. We are running daily support groups from the 25 December – 1 January.”

Anyone who wants to avail of Turn2Me’s free, professional mental health services over the Christmas period can sign up on Turn2Me.ie