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DHS issues strategies and tips to support loved ones
TRENTON – With the holidays set to begin officially on Thursday, the Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services today issued a quick-list of strategies and resource information for people with mental health or substance abuse disorders and their families to help manage the obstacles of the season.While the weeks ahead are typically marked by celebration and good cheer, the expectations, festivities and general pressures of the season often can create anxiety and melancholy for some people.
“Families of people with mental health or substance use disorders know the challenges holidays can bring,” said DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez. “It’s important to recognize the signs of someone who is struggling to cope, and offer the support they need to remain healthy and safe.”
The multitude of social and professional gatherings scheduled during the season also can create situations that test addiction recovery behaviors. Champagne toasts, wine with dinner and warmed beverages with alcohol are dangerous temptations for an individual with a history of substance use.
For people with bipolar disorder, severe depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this time of the year can be particularly difficult because of shorter days with less sunlight. SAD is estimated to affect up to 9% of the adult and teen populations in the Northeast region of the U.S.
Symptoms of SAD are usually the same as with depression:
• Loss of interest in work or other activities
• Mood changes
• Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
• Social withdrawal
• Unhappiness and irritability
• Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
• Increased sleep and daytime sleepiness (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
• Less energy and ability to concentrate in the afternoon
Health care providers and mental health professionals are able to diagnose SAD and recommend treatment that may include light therapy, counseling, antidepressant medications or cognitive behavioral therapy.
If a mental health crisis arises, there are screening centers in every county. The full list can be found on the DHS website, here.
Individuals with addictions can call the NJ Addiction Hotline at 1-800-238-2333, which provides trained clinically supervised telephone specialists who are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to educate, assist, interview and/or refer individuals and families. 
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