Holidays don't bring joy to everyone

By Mandy Mahan

A National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) study showed that 64% of people with mental illness admitted that holidays make their conditions worse and that this year some individuals may be experiencing emotional health challenges for the first time due to the effects COVID-19 has had on their social, physical and/or financial health.

The Paper of Wabash County talked with Jason Cussen, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Director for Wabash County Bowen Center about mental health during the holidays.

“The holiday season often is when we learn how to hold the positive and negative realities of life,” he told The Paper. “It is a time of celebration and for some a time of remembering a loss or managing difficult relationships, or both. Now, we are adding a new challenge of social distancing, forcing us to think differently about how we connect with family and in social gatherings.

“The truth is we often compare ourselves to the movies, but our families are not perfect. We all experience seasonal demands in different ways. We experience stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, financial stress, and now the inability to be with family and friends. In response to the demand, we often change our behaviors, which can increase stress, sadness, and anxiety.”

Behavioral changes can take form in many ways, such as: change in eating or sleeping patterns; increased alcohol or tobacco use; changes in routines such as physical activity; and a change in attitude such as feeling angry, irritable, withdrawn or having outbursts.

Cussen said that once these changes are identified, it is important to identify what things you are in control of and which things you are not.

“You can think of these as your holiday survival tools: Make a "to-do list" for the day. Write the list on one page so it can be carried with you. Schedule the more demanding tasks during the times when you are the most alert and energetic. Schedule an easy job after a difficult one or a long task after a short one, so you can stay motivated and make time for energy breaks,” said Cussen. “The holidays don't have to be perfect; as families change and grow, traditions and rituals often vary. Choose a few traditions to hold onto and be open to creating new ones. It is okay to have needs and to ask for those to be met.

Accepting help from loved ones and friends and sharing the season's load can bring families together. If you feel lonely, seek out community events, including religious events or other social events, or volunteering your time to help others. Leave "yesterday" in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way.”

IF you find yourself feeling depression for the first time, or realizing your depression has gotten worse during this season, there are many options for seeking help. 

“It is easier than ever to connect with services at the Bowen Center,” Cussen told The Paper. “It is as simple as having a conversation over the phone or coming into the office practicing COVID safe precautions with face masks and social distancing. When you call 800-342-5653 you will be greeted by patient services team who can answer questions and schedule an appointment. All new patients will participate in an initial assessment with one of our therapists or medical providers. You can complete the registration packet before the appointment by downloading it at Our highly trained team treats the whole person providing mental and physical health care, therapy, life skills coaching, treatment for Substance Use Disorder, and more. And, we provide insurance navigation to ensure patients receive the health insurance coverage they need. Any student who attends the three school districts in Wabash County has access to two prepaid confidential sessions with Bowen Center's Student Assistance Plan (SAP). Many businesses and organizations in Wabash participate in Bowen Center's Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), which offers employees and their families free, confidential assessments, and short-term counseling.”

The Bowen Center accepts many insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid and uses a sliding fee discount scale for patients that pay privately. The Center has Indiana Navigators to assist patients in obtaining insurance coverage or Medicaid, if eligible.

Other resources for help are:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Indiana provides no-cost, virtual, peer-led programs for individuals and families along with educational opportunities. For more info, visit is a comprehensive online resource that includes information, support and providers for anyone wanting to find help, locate information, or help others on their path to mental wellness.

Indiana 211 is a free service that connects Hoosiers with help and answers from thousands of health and human service agencies and resources right in their local communities - quickly, easily, and confidentially.

Posted on 2020 Dec 22