The festive season can often trigger feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
In regional and rural NSW, these feelings can be exacerbated but physical distance, lack of communication and lack of access to mental health services.
To help people manage during this time, the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) has put together eight tips to assist anyone struggling during what is supposed to be a time of celebration.
RAMHP Coordinator for the Far West NSW LHD, Marie Kelly, said 2020 had been an unprecedented year in terms of a loss of financial stressors, relationship challenges, isolation, grief, and high levels of uncertainty involved.
"If you know someone in your neighbourhood who may have been doing it tough, now is the time to reach out and check that they're okay," she said.
While the tips can help make a difference over the Christmas and New Year holidays, it is important to comply with any COVID-19 restrictions that are in place.
Tip 1- Sharing is caring
If you know someone experiencing grief, acknowledge that this may be the first Christmas without their loved one.
Show that you care and suggest that while it may be difficult, they are welcome to join you and your family for Christmas, or alternatively, let them know about any community lunches.
Tip 2- Spread some cheer
Tip 3 - Celebrate good times
Invite guests to come and watch Carols in the Domain or Carols by Candle lights with you and your family, and sing along.
Tip 4 - Decorate together
Offer to help a neighbour decorate their home and Christmas tree (children love doing this and could help), and don't forget to offer to help them pack everything up when New Year's comes around.
Tip 5 - Check on the vulnerable
If you know of any frail or elderly people nearby who don't have a lot of visitors, pop in with some treats or shortbread on a plate.
Use your own plate as it gives you a good excuse to go back later, collect the plate and check they are doing okay.
Tip 6 - Nice neighbours
Throw a Christmas or New Years party in your front yard and invite your neighbours along.
Ask them to bring a plate to share and if you know someone who is experiencing loneliness, make a special effort to invite them personally.
Tip 7 - Pick up the phone
For those people who live away or are in lockdown due to COVID-19 restrictions, make the effort to call on Christmas day.
Better yet if the technology is available, why not set up a Skype or Zoom call and watch each other opening presents or enjoying Christmas lunch.
Tip 8 - Make some time for yourself
Christmas and New Years can be a busy time of the year, so don't forget to take the opportunity to look after yourself.
Remember you can provide alternatives to alcohol such as mocktails to celebrate (you cannot enjoy the celebration if you can't remember it), and if you do notice stress in yourself it's important to recognise it and get help if you need to.
RAMHP Program Manager, Tessa Cummins, said the festive season was a time when people are expected to feel happy but for many people it can accentuate those feelings of loneliness, grief, and isolation.
"We can all do our bit to be caring, supportive listeners and good neighbours," she said.
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