Pressure to be happy at Christmas could overwhelm some people suffering mental health issues, a specialist charity has warned.
Taking Off The Mask will be providing support on Christmas Day for people struggling to cope with the strains of the festive season.
Adam Parkes, founder of Taking Off the Mask, said: “Christmas can be very challenging for people suffering mental illness. With the pressure to enjoy festivities, evidence shows it can heighten anxiety and, as period of reflection, the emotions of bereavement and loss are increased immensely.
“For example, people can be severely challenged by the idea that we all have to have a perfect Christmas where everyone enjoys themselves and, this year, it comes on top of all the worries about Coronavirus, especially with the new Omicron strain constantly in the news headlines.”
Adam, of Biddulph, Staffordshire, who overcame his own serious mental health crisis, founded Taking Off The Mask as a Facebook blog where he wrote his thoughts on mental health issues, using his own experiences as the catalyst, in an attempt to help others.
Soon, thousands of people from around the world signed up to read updates and the blog became a registered not for profit organisation, with the aim of raising awareness, fighting the stigma in the workplace and offering Mental Health First Aid training.
For the first time, Taking Off The Mask will have support available on Christmas Day.
The charity is offering a combination of text and face-to-face, virtual support and friendship throughout the day. “This comes after many of our members came forward to offer support”.
“We’ll be broadcasting live throughout the day, on the TOTM Community Facebook page, with people able to ‘drop-in’, regardless of where they are in the world, to simply ‘not be alone’ and share the day with others, albeit virtually.
“Originally, it was just going to be me, offering support via Facebook, but several people from various countries have now come forward and this means we can now offer a 24 hour service.”
To access support please head to Taking off the Mask Community Facebook page or, alternatively, follow the Community Page link at the TOTM website, www.takingoffthemask.org.
Added Adam: “People need to be kind to themselves this Christmas, plan ahead and manage expectations. If support is needed, we will work to provide a listening ear.”
A survey from YouGov found that a quarter of people say that Christmas makes their mental health worse, while the Mental Health Foundation found 54 percent of people were worried about the mental health of someone they know at Christmas.
Adam, a qualified instructor for Mental Health First Aiders, uses his own personal experiences of a mental health crisis to support others. Trauma in his personal life left Adam suicidal but, after taking time out to recover, Adam founded Taking Off The Mask in 2019.
A former award winning school headteacher, Adam now runs Parkes Education, a consultancy that supports school leadership teams, staff and pupils with their Social, Emotional and Mental Health.
Adam is qualified as an instructor for Mental Health First Aid courses and is currently training school staff to become Mental Health First Aiders and Supervisors, with the hope that every school in the country will have these, as standard, in the very near future. .
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