Not festive for some
CHRISTMAS is not a time of elation for everyone, particularly those who are ill, have suffered significant loss or can't be with their loved ones.
Yamba-based counsellor Craig Stephens has studied the seasonal effects of Christmas on mental health and has launched his new counselling service, Insight Counselling, in time for the festive season.
"People may find Christmas reminds them of a lost loved one or it could be their first Christmas without their children, their former partner could have remarried or they could have separated from their spouse," he said.
"Often there are ongoing family issues and there is the internal conflict of 'should I go and face the people I have a problem with?' and then there are those who feel guilty because they haven't been able to provide their family with the Christmas they would have wanted due to financial difficulties."
Mr Stephens said organisations such as St Vinnies, the Salvation Army and the Neighbourhood Centre at South Grafton helped with people's physical needs at Christmas time but there was still a great need for people to be able to decipher their emotional complexities with a mental health professional.
"These things affect people's self esteem but much of it can be worked through by counselling."
He said anyone who felt particularly vulnerable or suicidal should immediately call Lifeline or the Mental Health Access Line (24 hours, 365 days per year) on the numbers listed below.
Mr Stephens worked as a policeman in Queensland in the 1990s but left in 1999 feeling disillusioned with his job.
"I thought it was a helping profession but discovered that wasn't the case," he said.
Mr Stephens spent some years as a dog breeder in Armidale before moving to the Clarence Valley in 2009 when he began studying towards his counselling diploma.
He said he would be available for counselling today and from Tuesday onwards but had prior commitments on Christmas and Boxing days.
He can be contacted on 0488 699 250 for counselling sessions throughout the Clarence Valley.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics listed 2132 deaths by suicide in 2009 but the Lifeline website states suicides are "under-reported" and the annual figure could be as high as 2500.
The site also states that men in Australia are four times more likely to die by suicide than women and indigenous people are four times more likely to die by suicide than non-indigenous people.
For every completed suicide it is estimated that there are as many as 30 attempts.
The site notes: "We all have a role to play in suicide prevention".
- Mental Health Access Line (24 hours) - 1300 369 968 - can refer you to the local Community Mental Health Team.
- Lifeline - 13 11 14 - is available 24/7 for suicide counselling.
- Kids' Helpline - 1800 551 800.
- Men's Line Australia - 1300 789 978.