Mental health at Christmas

Help available for low mood, depression and anxiety.

No-one experiencing depression, low mood or anxiety should suffer in silence this Christmas, Scotland’s Minister for Mental Health has said.

Maureen Watt highlighted the help and support that’s available at a time of year when some people can experience mental health problems associated with stress and loneliness.

Breathing Space is a free, confidential phone line funded by the Scottish Government and run by NHS 24. It offers advice for people who are experiencing anxiety, depression or low mood. They also run Living Life, which offers more in depth telephone-based and online therapy.

Samaritans provide confidential non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day, for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Ms Watt said: “While most people enjoy Christmas, there’s no doubt there are others for whom it can be a difficult time of year. Feelings of isolation and personal problems can both come to the fore and that can sometimes lead to emotional difficulties.

“It’s important that people who are struggling know that help and support is available. There’s no need to suffer in silence.

“We’ve seen much greater awareness of mental health issues in recent years and that means more people are willing to ask for help. No-one should ever feel afraid to speak up and admit to feeling stressed or depressed.

“Breathing Space offers free and confidential advice to anyone who’s feeling low or anxious. Sometimes it can help just to have someone to listen to what’s on your mind. They can also give you advice on how to get further help and support.”

There are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce stress and anxiety over the festive period:

  • Avoid excess alcohol and too much food
  • Exercise can reduce stress and lift a low mood
  • Take time for yourself and relax on your own terms
  • Make sure you get enough sleep
  • Talk to others and take the time to listen.

Tony McLaren, National Coordinator of Breathing Space, said:

"Christmas can be a difficult time of year for some. It's not easy to talk about problems and emotions, particularly when it seems that everyone else around you is having a good time. Our advisors try and make it easier to talk about what you are going through. They can be called in confidence on freephone 0800 83 85 87."

James Jopling, Executive Director for Samaritans Scotland, said:

“Difficult feelings don’t discriminate. They don’t care if it’s December or June. We know that roughly one in five adults has felt suicidal - it’s not that uncommon and can happen to absolutely anyone.* On average, more than 50 people take their own lives in Scotland every month and every death from suicide is a devastating tragedy.** So, away from the idyllic images and all the hype around the season’s celebrations, let’s get real about how we can save lives, not just at Christmas but all year round. And that’s by listening to how a person who may be having a tough time really thinks and feels.”  


Breathing Space offers a free, confidential and compassionate response to people experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety. They can be contacted on 0800 83 85 87, 6pm to 2am Monday to Thursday; and 24 hours at the weekend. Calls to Breathing Space are free from landlines and from mobile networks.  provides a wide range of useful information and advice about coping with low mood, depression and anxiety.

A video about Breathing Space and Christmas Stress is available here:‚Äč

For more information on Living Life visit 

Samaritans provide confidential non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day, for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair. You can contact Samaritans free on 116 123. You can find more information about Samaritans at  

*Source: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014 [NS]

**National Records of Scotland (NRS). (2016).


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