For some, the holidays can’t come soon enough. The tinkling sound of sleighbells, the smell of fresh pine from a beautifully decorated tree, the glimmer of fresh snowfall on a bustling Christmas market; the joys of the holiday season are seemingly endless.

But for some, like myself, I can’t help but feeling like I’m missing something. As everyone around me grows more excited and filled with joy throughout the holiday season, I often find myself filled with anxiety, dread, and an overwhelming sadness. Is it homesickness? Fear of missing out? It’s hard to put to words – but I can’t shake the feeling as if something is wrong with me for missing out on festive cheer. Sound familiar?

Get to know Breathing Space, a free and confidential mental health helpline for Scotland

That’s why I was so keen to speak with Andrew Morrell from Breathing Space, one of a range of services provided by NHS 24 which also includes the telephone 111 service, and the health information website NHS inform. I had previously heard about Breathing Space but wanted to learn more.

Andrew was previously an advisor but is now a supervisor at Breathing Space, a free and confidential service to help people in Scotland deal with low mood, depression, and anxiety. Breathing Space connects callers with trained advisors, ranging across ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences, to offer a listening ear to those experiencing low mood, depression, or anxiety. Simply call the free service for a totally confidential, judgement free chat. There is also the option to use a web chat service.

When asked what makes Breathing Space unique, Andrew said: “We’re based within NHS 24 which has a mental health hub. We can transfer calls through to NHS 24 to have a full mental health assessment which has further outcomes, such as speaking to trained mental health nurses or a doctor if deemed necessary.”

The resources and staff of Breathing Space not only lend an ear but enable you to feel empowered. Andrew said: “We treat each call individually, recognising support is the first step in addressing mental health.”

The service hears about a wide variety of mental health issues and can provide information and advice on where to seek further help if required. Andrew said: “One of the first things we often hear from a caller on the line is that they aren’t sure why they are calling in the first place… it’s just about giving the person that space to open up and talk about what’s on their mind. Sometimes, they don’t know until they pick up the phone and explore with our advisors.”

Hands using a mental health helpline via text chat in Scotland
Calls to Breathing Space are free, confidential and won’t show up on any phone bills.

The holidays are mentally challenging for many

I asked Andrew if, like me, many people were experiencing low mood around the holidays. He confirmed that for people dealing with mental health issues, the holidays can be particularly challenging. He said: “Mental illness can leave people feeling confused and isolated… At Christmastime, it can provide loneliness and stress, which is a risk of pre-existing mental health conditions flaring up, as well as the risk of new mental health conditions.” Indeed, the holiday season can induce loneliness in many forms, often leading to low mood, which can affect the way you interact with the world. Major life changes, or even a build-up of smaller events, can lead to depression and sometimes, suicidal thoughts. Andrew however is confident that Breathing Space can help. He said: “I would encourage anyone to use our service. Don’t sit there and suffer and let things build up until they become unmanageable.”

For someone like me who often finds themselves struggling around the holiday season, the judgement-free nature of Breathing Space enables people to feel empowered.

This holiday season, I know I can feel a bit less lonely. There is someone to help. Breathing Space is there.

Call Breathing Space at 0800 83 85 87. The number is free to call and will not show up on phone bills. Operating 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday – 6am Monday) and 6pm to 2am on weekdays (Monday – Thursday).

Use a textphone to contact Breathing Space on 18001 0800 22 44 88, or use the Relay UK app.

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