The clinical team at Vantage Community Services provide Walk-in Counselling four times a week at no cost. Photo supplied

During holidays stress and anxiety levels may go up — there’s help for those struggling

With the holiday season comes the pressure to have a perfect Christmas with love, togetherness and family says Vantage Community Services CEO, Robecca Chahine.

When people realize they can’t have this perfect commercialized Christmas they picture in their minds — their depression, stress and anxiety levels go up.

“There’s a lot of pressure to be with family, feelings of hope and love and togetherness and if that’s not reality for someone, feelings of depression and sadness increase,” said Chahine.

That’s when people can turn to the free walk-in counselling services offered four days a week at Vantage Community Services on 4920-54 St. in Red Deer. Holiday hours for the walk-in program are Dec. 22, Dec. 28 and Dec. 29 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Regular hours resume from Jan. 2 on Tuesdays and Thursdays 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Brian Quigg, clinical services manager at Vantage Community Services, said the appointments last between 45 minutes to an hour — where families, couples or individuals can talk to a psychologist or a clinical social worker.

“It’s similar to a medical walk-in except it’s for counselling,” said Quigg.

Central Albertans can also access other free programs like the Outreach Service at Suicide Information & Education Services on 54 Ave., in Red Deer.

Dawne Adkins, certified grief recovery specialist and educator at Suicide Information & Education Services, said statistics show suicide rates do not increase around the holiday season. She said suicide is something people can struggle with throughout the year due to many reasons like financial stresses, relationships, loneliness, loss or pre-loss, feelings of hopelessness and many others.

Adkins said Christmas festivities may help people get through the holiday period but people may struggle after the holiday season, say, with holiday bills for example.

“All those things that were painful for people prior to the holidays, remain after the holidays as well,” she said.

The Outreach Service at Suicide Information and Education Services is free and available all year-round.

Adkins said the service is suitable for those who may have concerns, questions or thoughts around suicide.

The service is useful for someone needing immediate assistance.

The staff determines individual’s needs and help them accordingly. For example, they can connect residents with agencies to find toys for your kids during Christmas.

“And sometimes their needs are just somebody to listen,” said Adkins.

In some cases, those dealing with something may have an appointment with a counsellor or a therapist but that might be a month away.

“So they are needing a bridge to support them until they get to their appointment and sometimes, people aren’t sure what they are needing,” said Adkins.

She said emotional pain is valid and it’s not for somebody else to say, “Oh get over it.” But it’s also important to focus on how you’re coping to overcome suicidal thoughts.

For those looking to use the outreach service are asked to register by calling 403-342-4966.

Alberta Health Services provides a 24-hour Mental Health Help Line. The calls are confidential and anonymous and offer information about mental health programs and services. Call 1-877-303-2642 to reach someone at anytime.

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