WMU News

Depression hits hard during the holidays

Nov. 24, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The holidays can be an especially hard time for older people who are alone and lack a support network. But holiday depression really knows no age boundaries, says Dr. Donna Weinreich, assistant professor of community health and director of the WMU gerontology program.

"Depression does become more prevalent at certain times of the year," Weinreich says. "People in general, not just elders, who do not have the social supports and the social networks in place and who are home alone at Thanksgiving or Christmas, see more depression at those times of the year."

Much of it has to do with American society's image of and reliance on the nuclear family, Weinreich explains.

"People who have chosen not to create a nuclear family of their own are left with a real challenge when it comes to seeing so many other people with a nuclear family and seeing the media discuss all of the accoutrements that go along with a particular holiday," Weinreich says. "When you're being bombarded with the idea that this is the way it's supposed to be and you're not doing it, it opens the door for a tremendous amount of depression."

Weinreich, whose field of expertise is suicideology and especially elder suicide, says holiday depression often can lead to thoughts of suicide. She says it's extremely important for these people to contact a mental health professional.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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