By Scott Blair

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time of year. Parties and gatherings are abundant and meant to be enjoyed. However, not everyone feels that way. According to a Sesame poll, three in five Americans say the holidays affect their mental health.

Sixty percent of Americans say they have increased anxiety during the holidays, and 52% have increased depression. 70% feel extra financial stress, and 64% have an increase in COVID-related stress. 67% of Americans consider seeking professional help. Another 8% are interested but can’t afford it.

Sources of the Stress

Sources of stress were recorded as the Christmas gift list, navigating family dynamics, and managing children’s excitement levels. Braving your local mall or even parking at the mall during the holidays can add to stress as well.

Coping With Holiday Stress

According to the Sesame study, Americans cope with holiday stress by eating, exercising, and having sex. 19% say they reach for comfort food and exercise when stressed during the holidays. While 14% say they use sex and or alcohol to relieve stress.

22% of people talk to someone to cope with stress. 12% see a therapist, and 10% talk with a friend. On top of this, Black Americans have the added stressor of discrimination.

Holiday Stress in the Black Community

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) says that one in five adults experience mental illness every year. Blacks are 20% more likely to experience psychological issues than other racial groups, according to the National Institute of  Minority Health and Health Disparities (MHMHD).

Another problem in the black community around the holidays is suicide with youths according to this Pediatrics study. 6% of white students reported attempting suicide while over 10% of black students reported the same. Jenelle Watson, a licensed marriage and family therapist says, members of the Black community “remain less likely to seek treatment and face unique barriers when attempting to seek assistance from mental health providers.” Ms. Watson also says, “People often experience feelings of sadness after facing significant traumatic events during their lifetime.” Events such as a divorce, job loss, or the death of someone close to you. All of these issues tend to be compounded during the holidays and exacerbate stress.

Youth & Holiday Stress

In an interview with Maya Pottiger of Word In Black, Ashanti Branch, the founder and executive director of the Oakland-based Ever Forward Club, a nonprofit that provides young men a safe place to openly share their emotions and build character, says, “Sometimes kids go home to loving, tree-lighted homes and have music playing in the background. Sometimes they go home to war zones. So the holidays, whether it’s a holiday or a war zone, that all depends on what that child has in their life, with the support system they have in their life. And does anybody even notice or ask?”

Branch also said, “I’m always trying to help people access resources that are within their language skills. For some people, when you say emotional distress, they think that somebody is in crisis. And I think that if you were to ask any of your friends if they’re in emotional distress, a lot of young men will be like, “no.” But if you say, are any of your peers dealing with stuff that they don’t have answers to, they will say yes. What I try to do is just say, is there anything you need right now that you’re not getting?”

“Mental health has created such a challenge in our community. I’m a Black man, I live in Oakland, I grew up in the crack epidemic. People will be like, oh, he was fine. He’s crazy, or whatever. They would just downplay it. Because therapy was almost seen as something wrong with you. Everybody who wants to be in the NBA or NFL were out training all day long at the gym, practicing two or three times a day for their body. But no one was doing the training for their minds,” Branch said.

*If you or a loved one are dealing with mental health issues over the holidays, here are some resources.