A group of five young people walking together along a path in the park. Two girls are walking ahead and talking, while three boys walk behind them.

What not to say to people struggling with their mental health at Christmas

  • 3 min read
  • 13 December 2019

Topics mentioned: struggling with family, supporting a friend with their mental health

About: There can be a lot of pressure around Christmas and the festive holidays to behave a certain way, which may be difficult if we're struggling with our mental health. We asked our Activists and other young people on our Instagram what unhelpful comments they hear around the holidays, and what they'd like to hear instead. Here's what they said.

  • "Cheer up, it's Christmas"

    “A better one would be, ‘I understand that you are struggling; it’s OK to not feel good around this time of year.’” – Jacob

    “That’s not always possible, especially when you’re struggling with your mental health. A more helpful thing would be, ‘I can see you’re not feeling great. What do you need from us right now?’” – Rosie

    “Is there anything I can do to help over Christmas?” – Issy

  • "Don't be such a Grinch/Scrooge!"

    “Christmas means different things to everyone. It’s OK not to feel the same.” – Lisa

    “If you need to excuse yourself, that’s OK. But understand how you’re feeling is acceptable.” – Frankie

    “I know things are hard and people expect you to act happy but you can always be yourself with me.” – Toby

  • "Christmas is a time for family"

    “For some people that’s great, but for others who have tricky relationships with family members (or no family at all), it can be more helpful to hear, ‘Christmas is a good opportunity to spend time with people you love.’” – Rosie

    “If you need someone to call or text during the holidays, I’m here for you.” - Iris

  • "Stop being antisocial... it's Christmas!"

    “Not everyone feels comfortable socialising when they are struggling with their mental health. So instead of this you could say, ‘You don’t have to have plans this holiday season. Be spontaneous and maybe use this time to let yourself grow – or do nothing. It’s your choice.’” – Ulfa

    “Do you need some alone time?” – Amelia

  • "Stop acting like this, you're ruining everyone's Christmas"

    “If you feel overwhelmed, you can leave the room whenever you like. We’re here for you.” – Carys

    “I know you’re struggling, and it’s OK.” - Grace

  • "Christmas is a time to eat lots of food"

    “I know this time of year with food is tough, but do what you can and I will be here” – Hannah

  • "Is that all you're going to eat? It's Christmas!"

    “Eat as much as you want. Don’t feel pressured.” – Elea

  • "New year, new you"

    "New year, same you - but with new opportunities." - Eleanor

A good place to start

When we asked our Activists and other young people what things they find unhelpful to hear at Christmas, and what they would rather hear instead, we got lots of responses. This just goes to show that if you are struggling with your mental health during the holidays, you are not alone.

And if you know someone who is struggling with their mental health and you’re not sure how to support them during the holidays, one answer came up a lot which may be a good place to start:

Are you OK?

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
  • Shout

    Text SHOUT to 85258.

    Shout provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

    All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

    Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

    Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

    Opening times:

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