Holiday season breeds feelings of loneliness and depression for some

Stanley O. Williford | 12/22/2010, 5 p.m.

'Tis the season to be jolly, right?
Fa la, la, la, la.

So what happened to Lawrence G. who fell so far down in the dumps that the Chilean miners would shake their heads in sympathy? As it turns out, Lawrence lost his mother during the holidays last year, and he's missing her greatly this season.

And what of Terri B. who charged so much on her credit card that she'll probably wind up eating dinners of Cheerios for the next six months? She's depressed over the large debt she's created.
Also, consider the plight of Cheryl M., a freshman college student stranded in Los Angeles for Christmas because she doesn't have the money to get home to Chicago.

As we look at holiday revelers sporting their reds, greens and whites, the cheery colors we usually associate with Christmas, it is wise to remember that there are some who are seeing only the blues--the holiday blues.

Helen A. Mendes Love, Ph.D., formerly practiced in the Los Angeles area but is now based near Houston. She has a doctorate from UCLA and has served on the faculties at that university, Pepperdine University and the Hunter College of Social Work at the City University of New York. She is the author of several books including her latest, "Reflections on the Upside of Aging."
Love recalled a client who found herself depressed during a recent Christmas. We'll call her Yolanda.

Yolanda wanted a divorce and eventually left her husband. She loved him, recalled Love, but she was very unhappy in the marriage. Initially, she felt good about the divorce, but she hadn't anticipated the change in mood over the holidays. And since she hadn't worked out whom she would spend time with during holidays, she was not prepared for the realization that her ex would not be with her. The season only worked to reinforce her negative feelings.

"She learned to anticipate for the next year," said Love, so Yolanda hosted a dinner for some of her single friends who also had no one to spend the holidays with.

"A lot of people are sad because they've lost a job or a loved one or a relationship, or they've lost their health," said Love. "All of that contributes to the sadness around this time of year. African Americans tend to have high statistics in the loss of jobs and problems with health."

Depending on where one lives, she added, they may have to deal with a high incidence of crime, which can add to the feeling of isolation and loneliness.

Los Angeles psychotherapist Doris G. Morgan agrees.

"This year I would think that maybe more people will demonstrate the blues or minor depression," said Morgan, founder of Lifebuilders Counseling Service. "I attribute that to the economic situation that the country is going through, with so many people moving and going into new environments looking for employment or to get away from conditions where they were before.

"I believe that Blacks are affected more by holiday blues than any other group," she said. "Many aspects of just being Black, when our people dwell on what they have lost, or what they think they will never regain, automatically leads to depression."