Dr. Mark DeSilva, medical director of the emergency department at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System, near Chicago, said the hospital emergency department sees an increase in visits from people who have engaged in potentially self-destructive or depressive behavior during the holidays.
"Everywhere, there are signs of gatherings, gift exchanges, happiness and love," DeSilva said. "If you are not experiencing what the rest of the world is enjoying, it is very bitter. The holidays bring out desperate behavior in unstable individuals and they frequently end up in the emergency department as a medical emergency."
People who vulnerable are:
-- Isolated. Most people are busy, look for those who shun social interaction.
-- Angry. The person expresses sarcasm, unhappiness or criticism of others' joy in the season and is consistently pessimistic.
-- Using alcohol or drugs in excess. Often people overindulge to numb the pain and offer an escape from reality.
-- Missing frequently from work/social activities. Facing others who are happy and bright is often too difficult.
-- Excessive sleeping. Depression often takes the guise of extreme fatigue or tiredness.
"If you see signs of extreme behavior in a friend, family member or acquaintance, act immediately. Talk to them of the behavior you are seeing and offer help," DeSilva said. "There are social services, community groups, churches and other programs that can intervene."