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Alabama mental health care providers watch for signs of the “holiday blues”

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The holidays are fast approaching and that has Alabama mental health providers spreading the word on handling depression. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people into isolation before vaccines became available. One concern is whether someone is dealing with the holiday blues or clinical depression.

Dr. Matthew Macaluso studies depression for UAB. He said there are things people can do if they’re feeling isolated or depressed.

“A starting point is talking to a doctor, to make sure the patient isn’t struggling with difficulties with depression or anxiety that could be treated. In other words, is there an underlying medical condition?” Macaluso said.

Concerns over the omicron variant are prompting fresh recommendations for masking and social distancing as families typically gather for the season. Macaluso said people can seek counseling if they feel isolated as the holidays approach.

“Another way of managing stress during the holidays is increasing connectedness,” Macaluso said. “This could be done using technology like ZOOM or Facetime to connect with people. It also be done outdoors in other safe venues.”

Macaluso added that avoiding topics known to upset family members during holiday gatherings can also help with stress. Last year, UAB stated that Alabama ranks third in the nation for overall depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, in 2020, that 13% of Alabamians showed symptoms of depression.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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