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Agency helps to overcome holiday depression

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Leaders of a Stockbridge mental health facility are working to help area residents, who suffer from depression during the holiday season.

Southern Crescent Behavioral Health System's Crescent Pines Campus offers inpatient psychiatric services, for people struggling with depression, and suicidal thoughts, according to Chief Operating Officer, Matt Winchester.

"The holidays are a particularly stressful time," Winchester said. "Our goal is to provide high-quality programming, to make sure that we're giving them the tools to aid in their recovery."

The campus, at 1000 Eagle's Landing Parkway, in Stockbridge, has been open for one year. Winchester said he has worked in the field of mental health for more than 15 years. He said the programs offered are for children ages 4-12, teenagers 13-17, and adults 18 and older. The criteria for admission into programs, Winchester said, centers on whether an applicant is "a danger to himself, or others."

Dr. Michelle Raynor is the director of clinical services at the Stockbridge facility. She has worked in the field for six years, she said.

Raynor said the holidays, for some, are typically a difficult period to endure.

"It's a time that brings up a lot of old memories, and issues of grief and loss," Raynor said. "People really struggle to create new traditions during the holidays."

She added that patients who are estranged from their families tend to express thoughts of depression or sadness during the holidays. For those individuals, participating in festive activities at Christmastime "takes more effort," according to Raynor.

The clinical director said she and her staff are trained to identify telltale signs, which point to bouts of holiday depression or suicidal thoughts. Those signs include an increase in fatigue, and a sense of what she called "pleasurelessness."

"We see it a lot during the holidays," Raynor said. "Things they used to enjoy, they just have no joy in."

She acknowledged holiday depression can be challenging, for families of depressed people to fully comprehend. To combat this, Raynor said, loved ones must listen to the concerns of a depressed, or suicidal person, with "no pushing, and no judgment."

Raynor said depressed individuals -- regardless of the time of year -- tend to isolate themselves, which can make their problems more difficult to overcome. A potential solution for this, she said, is for those people to "get out as much as possible," and involve themselves in activities with others.

"The longer they are alone, the more likely it is that their depression will get worse," Raynor said. "Depression is treatable."

Outpatient services are offered Monday through Friday each week, to teach people skills in coping with problems and reaching out to others, according to Raynor.

In addition to programs geared toward helping people avoid depression, or suicide, the Crescent Pines Campus also provides assistance for those struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

For more information about Southern Crescent Behavioral Health System's Crescent Pines Campus call (770) 474-8888.