Perhaps this holiday season is the first since a particularly difficult loss, such as divorce, death, or estrangement. If so, proactive mental health approaches may be beneficial. Consider the following if you are coming to your first holiday since a challenging life event:

1. Familiar routines and rituals may trigger unexpected feelings. For example, you may suddenly feel sad after baking Christmas cookies because you used to make them with someone who is no longer part of your life. Identifying and avoiding these triggers before they occur is ideal; however, if you have already engaged in familiar routines that activate negative emotions…

2. …Time is needed to handle these feelings. For a host of reasons, it is best to feel and process, rather than avoid, these emotions. Processing takes time, which is why leaving space in your schedule to work through negative feelings is good practice. A schedule with space cushions may be difficult to obtain during the holidays; however, achieving calendar flexibility will afford you freedom later to work through negative emotions without additional pressure from outside obligations.

3. Replace familiar customs. If holiday rituals have changed because of reasons you did not initiate or want, they can be substituted. For example, if Thanksgiving was typically spent cooking and eating with a person who is now absent from your life, consider instead engaging in leisure activity (hiking, biking, going to a movie, etc.) on Thanksgiving and then later ordering take-out.

4. Feelings are normal. The cliché is true; negative emotions resulting from triggers are normal and expected. Grief is a process. If you need someone to walk through this journey with you, consider contacting Butterflies Prospering Wellness Co. so one of our trained therapists can assist.


One unexpected and unfortunate result of the Covid-19 pandemic is the rise in attention given to its affect on domestic violence rates, which have increased since the pandemic’s onset. Specifically, “Results show moderate to strong increase in domestic violence incidents between pre- and post-lockdown periods” (Piquero et al., 2021, p. 1).

In addition to a rise in rates, a new form of domestic violence is being newly defined in public squares: economic (or financial) abuse. This type of abuse has been tentatively defined as “a deliberate pattern of control in which individuals interfere with their partner’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain economic resources” (Postmus et al., 2020, para. 6). In other words, economic abuse is characterized by prevention of access to resources, thus creating a scenario of dependence upon another.

Treating Domestic Abusers

Some trends surrounding domestic violence are positive, however. For example, novel treatment methods are emerging that use virtual reality to place domestic violence offenders in victims’ roles. Through the lens of virtual reality, offenders will ‘see’ themselves as their victims. According to research, these modalities increase offender empathy and help them better recognize non-verbal cues of distress (Seinfeld et al., 2018).

Changing Public Opinion about Domestic Abuse

Changing domestic violence outcomes often requires altered approaches by practitioners, care-givers, counselors, family, friends, and public entities. These varied approaches can include forming non-judgmental relationships with victims rather than expecting immediate adherence to rigid suggestions that recommend victims “leave abusers now or stop complaining.” These relationships can de-pressurize stressful situations and provide support should the victim eventually choose to leave the abuser. Additionally, victims would greatly benefit from society asking the correct questions regarding domestic violence. For example,


Instead of asking this...

...ask this

Why didn’t the victim leave?

What makes it so difficult to leave?

What makes offenders commit domestic violence?

​What factors make victims feel they have to stay?

How can we better support victims?

Steps Forward

Victims of domestic violence may be thinking of leaving an abusive relationship; however, they do not have to leave today or do it all at once. Having a plan in place can greatly aid victims should they decide to leave later. For help creating a plan, see this website. Additionally, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available at 1–800–799-SAFE (7233) or via chat at their website.


References

Piquero, A. R., Jennings, W. G., Jemison, E., Kaukinen, C., & Knaul, F. M. (2021). Evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis: Domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Criminal Justice, 101806. https://https:doi.org/10.1016/j.crimjus.2021.101806

Postmus, J. L., Hoge, G. L., Breckenridge, J., Sharp-Jeffs, N., & Chung, D. (2020). Economic abuse as an invisible form of domestic violence: A multicountry review. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 21(2), 261-283. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1524838018764160

Seinfeld, S., Arroyo-Palacios, J., Iruretagoyena, G., Hortensius, R., Zapata, L. E., Borland, D., ... & Sanchez-Vives, M. V. (2018). Offenders become the victim in virtual reality: impact of changing perspective in domestic violence. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-19987-7

By: Diane Watt

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health experts warned of a “perfect storm” consisting of a “tsunami of suicide” (Tandon, 2021, para. 2). After nearly two years of a global pandemic, reports concerning Covid-related suicide rates have varied. Some statistics assert rates have remained consistent the past eighteen months, while others claim a decrease in suicides. Regardless of statistics, however, thoughts of suicide can be a very real experience for some. In these cases, knowing how to react is key. Consider the following quick tips if suicidal thoughts occur:


· Avoid focusing on the future. Rather, try to simply make it through the day. Major decisions (such as suicide) can and should be delayed.


· Engage in distractions. These diversions can include singing, drawing, listening to music, connecting with nature, or caring for a pet.


· Go to a safe place where others are present. For example, spending time in a coffee shop or bookstore can be therapeutic.


· Consider reaching out. Call the suicide hotline at 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741.

Thoughts of suicide typically pass. When they do, think about creating a Crisis Box filled with uplifting elements, such as pictures, keepsakes, etc. This way, the Crisis Box can be utilized if suicidal thoughts strike again.


Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for therapy or mental health treatment. Please consult your mental health provider or a medical professional.


Reference

Tandon, R. (2021). COVID-19 and suicide: Just the facts. Key learnings and guidance for action. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 60, 102695. https://doi.org/https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.ajp.2021.102695

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