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DHS issues strategies and tips
TRENTON – For college students, the pressures of the holiday season can be exacerbated by finals, finances, term papers, grades, leaving behind freedom and campus relationships to return to parental supervision and outdated friendships.These stressors can cause even more anxiety for people with depression or addictions, especially during a season marked by parties with temptations and expectations. 
“The holiday season is not always a joy, especially when you have to cram for tests, make travel arrangements, say goodbye to your campus friends or your significant other and readjust to living under your parents’ roof,” said Lynn Kovich,  Assistant Commissioner for the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the state Department of Human Services. “That can cause a lot of anxiety within a relatively short period of time.”

To help manage the challenges of the season, DHS issued a quick-list of helpful strategies and resource information.

There are strategies that can help you stay safe and healthy, and even enjoy yourself, Kovich noted. Among them are:

• Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
• Do not isolate yourself.
• Remind yourself that you are not alone. Call a friend. Volunteer for others in need. Get some sun. Get outside, and get outside of yourself.
• Remember, alcohol is a depressant and can also be harmful if taken with medication.
Commissioner Jennifer Velez also noted that families or friends of people with mental health or substance use disorders should be aware of the challenges holidays can bring.
“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,” Velez said. “Remind the person that he or she will feel better with treatment and time.”
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. 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; 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); and 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. For referral to mental health services, call NJ Mental Health Cares at 1-866-202-HELP
Kovich also noted that people in recovery for alcoholism or substance should stay close to other people in recovery and avoid people, places and things that can be relapse triggers. Other strategies to avoid relapse include:

• If you have to attend an event where others may be drinking, bring someone with you who is not drinking.
• Plan to leave early.
• Hold on to your glass of seltzer.
• Show gratitude and compassion.
• Go to a 12-step meeting, a place of worship or any gathering that promotes positive fellowship.

Individuals with addictions can call the NJ Addiction Hotline at 1-800-238-2333, which provides trained clinically supervised telephone specialists, or the Peer Recovery WarmLine at 877.292.5588.

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