The holidays are supposed to be filled with family, love and cheer -- but sometimes the pressure of planning gifts and parties and dinners and trips can become overwhelming.
For some, the holidays can be a time of financial stress as they juggle trying to buy gifts with paying the bills.
Or they can be a reminder of loved ones lost during the year.
Mental health experts said it's not unusual for people to feel anxious or depressed during the holiday season -- especially when days are short and sunlight is scarce.
But help is available for those who recognize the signs and are willing to reach out.
"Probably everyone during the winter months has had feelings of feeling down," said Kyle Sullivan, clinical supervisor for the Benton Franklin Crisis Response Unit. "It becomes clinically significant when it interferes with someone's ability to function -- if there are increased thoughts of self-harm, suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming other people."
A fact sheet from Mental Health America, formerly the National Mental Health Association, said finances are the most common source of holiday stress, followed by memories of loved ones who died and simply having too much to do.
Sullivan said crisis response can be a good place to start for anyone struggling through the holidays, or who knows someone who is.
"Someone can call here (783-0500) if they are experiencing a mental health crisis, and there's always someone on the other end of the line," he said. "At the very least, we can talk to someone on the telephone."
The help offered can be as simple as a listening ear on the other end of the line, allowing the caller to vent his or her frustrations.
Or it could include making an appointment for a mental health evaluation and referral for treatment.
For someone in a serious crisis who meets the right criteria, crisis response can refer them to a psychiatric hospital or crisis bed where they can get stabilized, he said.
Symptoms of depression include increased feelings of sadness or hopelessness, an inability to get out of bed in the morning or engage in normal activities, decreased energy accompanied by an increase in sleep, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, irritability and changes in appetite -- either eating too much or too little, Sullivan said.
"Also, changes in behavior that can cause problems in relationships or families -- having a little shorter fuse," he said.
And consuming alcohol or drugs that are depressants can make symptoms worse, he added.
The Mayo Clinic recommends acknowledging feelings of stress and depression and reaching out for help if feeling lonely or isolated during the holidays.
The clinic also suggests being aware of limitations and learning to say no to avoid becoming overwhelmed, and seeking professional help if needed.
w For help, call the Crisis Response Unit at 783-0500.