New findings, released today by Mind*, show that more than a third (36 per cent) of people with mental health problems have self-harmed to cope with the pressure of Christmas. Mind’s survey, of 1,100 supporters, found that more than half (52 per cent) have considered harming themselves at Christmas, while nearly half (45 per cent) have considered taking their own life.
Mind wants to remind everyone that, for some people, the Christmas period can be a challenging time. Last year more than 21,000 people with mental health problems spent the festive season in hospital because they were unwell, meaning thousands of families across England were faced with empty chairs at their Christmas dinner tables and gatherings.
I was placed in an adult eating disorder unit a month after my 16th birthday and had never been away from home. I was terrified and felt very alone and confused - I insisted that I did not have a problem and didn't need their help even though I was close to death.
Mind’s poll also revealed that:
- Three quarters (76 per cent) of people have had problems sleeping at Christmas
- Nearly 60 per cent of people have experienced panic attacks over the festive period
Reasons people gave for struggling at Christmas included getting into debt (41 per cent) feeling lonely (83 per cent) and finding Christmas stressful (81 per cent). The findings come as the charity anticipates a spike in the number of people calling the Mind Infoline for support after Christmas.
Around a third (29 per cent) of people told Mind that they try to connect with people they have lost touch with at Christmas, while almost one in five (19 per cent) have called a helpline for advice or support. Mind is urging people to be there for loved ones over the festive period, and to help the charity be there for people with nowhere else to turn by making a donation this Christmas by texting ‘’MIND’ to 70660 or visiting mind.org.uk/christmas15.
20 year old Aine was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa in December 2011, at 16. Christmas is a particularly tough time for Aine who has spent two of the last three Christmases in hospital:
“I was placed in an adult eating disorder unit a month after my 16th birthday and had never been away from home. I was terrified and felt very alone and confused - I insisted that I did not have a problem and didn't need their help even though I was close to death.
“I was in hospital over Christmas and New Year, which was heart-breaking. I was unable to be with my mum on Christmas Day and she was alone at home.
“I was in hospital for nearly a year, for my second admission, which meant I was in hospital for my 17th birthday and Christmas.
“Although I spent Christmas 2013 at home, I felt very alone and struggled. I lost weight again which made eating difficult. It was a very hard time for me and my mum.
“I managed my eating disorder and mental health for a good few months, but last summer my mood lowered significantly. My depression grew worse and I tried to take my own life. I was admitted to hospital.
“I was in hospital for my third Christmas but during this stay I was with my outpatient team who support me when I’m at home, which made things easier. After six months I was able to return home.
“I have looked at Mind’s website quite a few times. Reading personal stories of people with mental health problems and information on medication has been very helpful. I have always found it hard to ask for help, so it’s good to know that the Mind Infoline is there if I need it.”
“I have to admit I am scared about this Christmas. The last three years have been very tough as I have been in and out of hospital. I struggled with depression and self-harm, but with support from staff I made it. There was a time when I couldn't see a future but now I can.”
Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, says: “Coping with a mental health problem can be difficult at any time of year but at Christmas there are special demands that can leave you feeling worse than usual. Our research shows that people are struggling due to the stress, financial impact and pressure to join in when everyone around you seems to be having fun.
“Some people aren’t able to be with loved ones this Christmas and worry about feeling lonely. Christmas can also make existing problems seem even bigger – especially if you are unhappy, and everyone else is having fun.
“While people can turn to less healthy ways of coping when struggling at Christmas – smoking, drinking too much or eating comfort food – this can also have a serious impact on our health. We’re urging people to look out for one another and show that you care. By listening, sympathetically, by being affectionate, appreciative, or simply by spending time with loved ones.”
Many people find online forums like Mind’s peer-support site Elefriends (www.elefriends.org.uk) really helpful, particularly if they are unable to confide in friends or don’t have strong social networks.
 At the end of December 2014, 21,700 people were inpatients at mental health hospitals, source: Health & Social Care Information Centre http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB17119
[*] Mind conducted a Survey Monkey poll of 1100 people, 866 of whom have mental health problems, between 18 November and 1 December 2015.