Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Paget Hetherington
on December 23, 2020

Gaggle has seen a 66% increase in the number of incidents it has reported this year, partially due to an increase in the volume of content on digital platforms, but also because of an increase in student mental health struggles. As a result of this increase in student struggles, incidents categorized as Suicide & Self-Harm have risen 83%.

As we approach the holiday season and subsequent winter break for many districts, it’s important to be aware of the challenges students may be facing mentally and emotionally this time of year—especially during an unprecedented pandemic. Students decrease their usage of digital platforms significantly during the week of Christmas each year, with Gaggle recording a 94% decrease in student activity during that period in 2019. However, among the activity that is reviewed, alerts about depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm are all 2.6 times more likely to occur.

This presents a unique challenge for educators and districts in keeping students safe during the holiday season and winter months. In order to best support student wellness during this time, it’s important that educators learn to identify behavioral patterns that signal an emerging mental health concern, such as the “holiday blues.”

What Causes the Holiday Blues?
The holiday blues is a common mental health concern in which the holiday season triggers depression for a variety of reasons. The most common symptom of the holiday blues is a persistent and recurring feeling of sadness that occurs during the holiday season. The holiday blues can be distinguished from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a psychiatric condition characterized by major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. While the holiday blues is not an officially recognized psychiatrist condition, about 14% of Americans experience it each year.

The most common causes of holiday blues are isolation, exhaustion, financial stress, missing family and friends, and nostalgia for the past. These circumstances lead to a variety of symptoms that can be seen in individuals of all ages, including difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, loneliness, lack of pleasure and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and withdrawal from friends and family.

Addressing the Holiday Blues
Discussing the holiday blues with a doctor can help determine potential causes and check for underlying conditions that may be contributing to symptoms. These feelings can also be addressed with coping strategies such as exercise, spending time outside, setting realistic expectations, and reaching out to loved ones—even if you can’t do so in person.

While the holiday blues may put a bit of a damper on the holiday season, it’s important to know how to address these feelings when they emerge to prevent further mental health concerns from developing. Understanding the holiday blues and how to address this issue can help you support students who may be struggling and get them the help they need—before an incident occurs.

Learn more about the holiday blues and supporting students who experience mental health struggles during the holiday season by viewing our recent Student Wellness Series: Holiday Blues webinar.

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