Not everything you hear about Christmas is true. There probably are no flying reindeer as depicted on Christmas cards and an elderly gentleman does not personally deliver presents. Those of us who work in the mental health field have also developed some myths about Christmas which make it sound like a dangerous and gloomy time of year. The suicide rate goes up, people experience an increase in social isolation or overexposure to family conflict and children’s faith in father Christmas is unceremoniously shattered. It sounds like a recipe for devastating mental health.
Not so, says psychiatrist Dr Neil Jeyasingam (2018) who has collected evidence to show that Christmas may in fact be a positive time for many. His reading reveals that suicide rates drop and that there is less self-harm , fewer presentations to mental health services and fewer emergency visits. And if you need further convincing, consider the work of Anderson and Prentice, of the University of Texas whose interviewed children who no longer believed in Father Christmas. Their results showed that children generally came to understand the truth on their own at about 7 years old as a positive experience with 71% finding this surprising and 62% happy. It was the parents who found their children’s loss of innocence hard, rather than their children.
So thank you Dr Jeyasingam, Christmas is a wonderful time of the year!