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PNS Daily Newscast - December 17, 2018 


Do GOP lawmakers have the votes to avoid a government shutdown? Also on the Monday rundown: groups laud Zinke’s departure, but worry about who’s next. Plus, a call for review of Veteran’s Administration dog research.

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Recognizing Holiday Depression and Stress

Studies show that people who struggle with depression during the winter months can sometimes improve their symptoms with frequent exposure to bright light or sunshine. (pawelkozera/Pixabay)
Studies show that people who struggle with depression during the winter months can sometimes improve their symptoms with frequent exposure to bright light or sunshine. (pawelkozera/Pixabay)
December 7, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – The holiday season is ramping up, and while most people look forward to festivities with friends and family, for others this time of year can worsen stress, sadness and depression.

Some people have increased anxiety due to travel obligations, or the expenses of gift-giving. Others neglect self-care trying to make the holidays special for family or loved ones.

There is no evidence that the suicide rate spikes at Christmas, but suicides have dramatically increased in the U.S.. And Dennis Gillan, a mental-health and suicide-prevention advocate who lost two brothers to suicide, says each person needs coping mechanisms to help maintain their holiday equilibrium.

"Let's get comfortable talking about mental health, so we don't have this increase,” says Gillan. “And then, too, if you've been down this road take care of yourself – self-care is not selfish."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is now the 10th-leading cause of death nationwide, and the second-leading cause for people ages 15 to 34. Since 1999, Iowa's suicide rate has increased by 21 percent.

Matt Wray, associate professor of sociology at Temple University, has studied why suicide rates are higher in the American West than other parts of the U.S.. He says people thrive on strong friendships and family relationships, and too much solitude at any time of year can bring on feelings of despair.

"Social isolation,” says Wray. “And I'm not talking here about loneliness, although loneliness can be a factor in suicide, but more about geographic and social disconnectedness."

Mental health experts say for people who struggle during the holidays, this is not the time to cancel therapy sessions. And to reach the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA