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Help for the Holiday Blues

Posted Date: 12/15/2014
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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — During the holiday season, many suffering from depression see an increase in symptoms. The financial stress, reflecting on the past year, and loss of loved ones can contribute to symptoms such as depression, loneliness, sadness, isolation, anger, and abnormal sleep. Those who don't typically experience depression can encounter other symptoms such as headaches, tension, fatigue, excessive drinking, and over-eating.

Holiday blues should not be confused with clinical depression; however, clinical depression can be triggered in a number of ways around the holidays.

A Mobile Outreach Unit offers behavioral health services to individuals on Staten Island in their home. The unit is a component of the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at Richmond University Medical Center. Since the Mobile Outreach Unit's inception in 1993, it has grown to operating seven days a week, visiting over 3,000 patients each year.

"The service offers a team of trained counselors that visit both adults and children with behavioral health issues right in their home," explains Pankaj Patel, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at RUMC. "The Mobile Team also acts as a liaison between the community and various outpatient resources on Staten Island. A close working relationship with these resources helps us to better serve the residents of our community. An initial phone call is the first step to getting help for yourself or a loved one experiencing behavioral health issues."

Mobile Outreach Unit teams provide a range of services including assessment, crisis intervention, supportive counseling, information and referrals, linkage with appropriate community based behavioral health services for ongoing treatment and follow up. The teams serve any person in Staten Island experiencing, or is at risk of, a psychological crisis, and who requires behavioral health intervention and follow-up support.

The teams usually are called by family members, neighbors, friends, or anyone concerned about an individual. The mobile outreach unit is comprised of collaborative teams of mental health professionals (nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, mental health technicians and addiction specialists) who respond to individuals on Staten Island, visiting them at home or other locations.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the particular disorder, circumstances and other factors. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

Examples of signs and symptoms include:

Feeling sad or down
Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
Withdrawal from friends and activities
Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
Alcohol or drug abuse
Major changes in eating habits
Excessive anger, hostility or violence
Suicidal thinking
Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained aches and pains.

If you are concerned that someone's depression is more than holiday blues, or if you are concerned about someone's mental health, seek advice. Don't avoid getting help for your loved one out of shame or fear. Team members are dressed in plain clothes and patient confidentiality remains a priority. The teams are trained to assess and treat adults, as well as children between the ages of 3 and 18.

For more information or to ask for help, contact the Mobile Outreach Unit at 718-818-6900. The team is available seven days a week: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.