Back to Our Heroes You are reading: Festive Stress: Challenges of the Holiday Season
4th December 2023 | Read Time: 4 minutes

Festive Stress: Challenges of the Holiday Season

It’s easy to forget that the holiday season isn’t merry for everyone.

While many of us look forward to the festive season as an opportunity to celebrate and relax with family and friends, the holiday period can be difficult for others, amplifying feelings of isolation, disconnect and mental health challenges.

zero2hero clinical psychologist Rashna Patel said Christmas and New Year could be an especially tough time for young people, conjuring feelings of desperation, self-harm and suicidal ideation.

“Around the holidays, people are celebrating, going to parties and having events – so if you’re not connected, those feelings of isolation can feel more amplified,” Ms Patel said.

“Social anxiety can also increase during this time. For example, people attending events, or having to host – that can be overwhelming for people instead of a joy.

“When we see an increase in anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions, we often see that hand-in-hand with an increase in suicidal ideation, self-harm and often suicide itself.

“That’s why it’s vital that we step in to support and connect with young people these holidays.”

A Red Cross study in November 2022 showed that nearly one in three Australians experienced loneliness around the festive season, with young people reporting feeling the most isolated.

“In particular populations, we see loneliness, isolation and that pressure peak around Christmas time,” Ms Patel said.

“There’s often a lot of loneliness for people who don’t have adequate support from family and friends.”

Ms Patel said there were many triggers around the holiday season, including family conflict, broken daily routines and structure, grief and greater indulgence in alcohol, all which can have a flow on effect on young people.

“Family conflict can be problematic around the festive season. If you’re from a family with lots of relationship challenges and tensions, that can also trigger issues,” she said.

“People also take a lot of time out of their routines. Work and school is on break, and changes to structure can elevate stress, particularly if people need that control and predictability in their lives.

“Grief and loss can take a big toll. If it’s the first time or one of the first times of not celebrating Christmas or a holiday with someone you love, that can be a burden for people.”

Ms Patel said pressures to meet work deadlines before going on holiday, taking on more responsibility at work with limited staff over the break, or apprehension over the release of ATAR results in mid-December could also foster feelings of overwhelm.

She said there were several ways people could offer support to someone who was struggling, including regular check-ins, making time to visit, dropping over food and care packages and invite them to your Christmas celebrations if you know they are alone.

All money donated to zero2hero over this Christmas period will go towards supporting our innovative school programs, leadership camps and events that help to engage and empower young people and prevent suicide.

“We are grateful for all donations to zero2hero – big and small. A donation of $75 allows us to impact one young life through one of our programs and make a real difference to future generations,” Ashlee Harrison, zero2hero CEO said.

So far this year, zero2hero has impacted more than 30,000 young people, trained 600 people in a lifesaving suicide prevention accreditation, provided 18,500 students with mental health education and reached more than 244 WA schools.

Donations are tax deductible and can be made by visiting:

If you are someone you know is struggling, please reach out to one of the following support lines.

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Line 1800 659 467
  • BeyondBlue 1300 224 636
  • Mensline 1300 789 978
  • KidsHelpline 1800 551 800
  • 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732