By Jeremy Sollars
Warwick’s ‘Salvos’ have a simple message for those doing it tough in our community this Christmas – “there is hope”.
Without wishing to diminish the joy of the festive season, the stark reality is that many among us will be finding this Christmas more of a burden – both financially and emotionally – than a time of celebration.
New research released this December – commissioned through Roy Morgan as part of The Salvation Army’s Christmas Appeal – shows that 1.6 million Australians with children under the age of 10 will not be providing a Christmas present to their children this year.
It’s an increase of more than one million compared to last year’s figures.
And not only are presents a struggle for many local families, putting a Christmas meal on the table will also be looming as a challenge this year.
Local Salvation Army ministers and Lieutenants Zak and Dee Churchill work at the coalface of disadvantage in our community, but they continue to be overwhelmed at the generosity being shown by many around here.
The local Salvos’ Christmas Appeal will provide Christmas gifts for more than 50 local kids, with hundreds of toys donated by those keen to help out those less fortunate.
And it’s not too late to make a donation – the Salvos will welcome more items right through until the end of this week, with donated toys to be distributed to families in need on Saturday.
“The response has just been incredible,” Zak told the Free Times.
“I’ve filled the boot of my car several times over.
“Christmas just creates this massive expectation for so many people – parents can feel they’ve failed their kids if they don’t have the best of everything at Christmas.
“After Christmas can be the worst – when kids compare what they got with others.
“I think there’s an unrealistic standard which gets set, and can just end up being a huge financial burden for a lot of people.
“Our message this Christmas is that ‘there is hope’, which is what Christ came to bring – the Salvation Army message is about ‘hope where it’s needed most’.”
The Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory spokesman Major Paul Moulds said people living on marginal incomes and tight budgets were already carefully managing how they spent their money.
“But with power prices escalating, housing affordability getting worse and more Australians struggling to get enough paid work, it’s getting harder and harder for many people to keep their head above water,” Major Moulds said.
“This research is extremely disturbing and is precisely why we ask the public to dig deep and support our Christmas Appeal.
“Over Christmas, we will help over 300,000 people, serve over 10,000 meals and distribute more than half a million gifts and toys to Aussies in need.
“But the Salvos are struggling to keep up with this demand.
“Additionally, the face of loneliness is changing and is affecting people from all walks of life – more and more people in our community are facing isolation at Christmas.”
* Donations of toys to the Warwick Salvos Christmas Appeal can be left at collection points at Rose City Shoppingworld, Granite Belt Dental, Suncorp Bank and at the Salvation Army Red Shield Family Store on Grafton Street, and at their church on Guy Street.
* The Salvos will hold a free Christmas Fair this Saturday 23 December from 11am to 2.30pm for everyone in the community, at their headquarters at 25 Guy Street – come along for face painting, coloured hair spray, games, free new clothing, food/barbecue, jumping castle and giant slide. Emergency supplies, gifts and assistance will also be available for those in need.
* On Christmas Day, The Salvation Army invites the public to gather to celebrate the hope and joy of Christmas. The Salvos Christmas Day service will be held at 25 Guy Street from 8.30am, and everyone is welcome to attend.
What the Roy Morgan Christmas research reveals …
* A massive 735,000 Australians know 10 or more families who will experience financial hardship/poverty this Christmas.
* 69 per cent of those surveyed – equating to 13.2 million people – say Australians are losing the true meaning of Christmas.
* Eight million say the general public isn’t doing enough to help Australians in need at Christmas.
* A huge 13.1 million Australians know people who will be lonely this Christmas.
* 9.5 million Australians revealed ‘paying for Christmas is getting harder and harder every year’.
The Salvation Army urges anyone in need of assistance this Christmas to reach out. For anyone who would like to donate to The Salvation Army’s Christmas Appeal, a gift of $29 will allow the Salvos to put food on the table and presents under the tree for Aussies in need.
Be kind to your mental health this festive season – that’s the message from beyondblue.
Financial hardship, family conflict and loneliness can increase stress for people with anxiety and depression in the lead-up to Christmas and New Year celebrations.
beyondblue clinical adviser Dr Stephen Carbone says people with mental health conditions should be thinking about coping strategies for Christmas.
“Common triggers for people with mental health conditions during the holiday period include budget stress, being invited to more social engagements or being left on your own, and the pressure of living up to expectations,” Dr Carbone said.
“Most people find the Christmas and New Year period stressful, but if you have anxiety or depression, an increased level of stress may cause an escalation of the condition.
“Stress is a fuel source for anxiety or depression, so the more stress there is the more those conditions flare up.
“Some people might start putting too much pressure on themselves about what they should buy or do for others. Others might dread catching up with family because it may end in conflict.”
Dr Carbone said people with mental health conditions should reduce the expectations on themselves so they can deal with the stress of Christmas and New Year.
“Be kind to yourself when you’re planning what you will do at this time of the year. It’s OK to look after yourself and say no to some things to reduce stress and keep things enjoyable,” he said.
“People who may be alone at this time of year should also start planning ahead.
“If you don’t want to be on your own during the festive season, you can contact organisations where you can connect with people.
“Community groups offer many opportunities to meet others in friendly and enjoyable settings.”
beyondblue has created an online forum thread titled CHRISTMAS 2017/NEW YEARS Chillout Lounge where people can seek support, join conversations or learn coping strategies.
“Forum users can post anonymously about how they are feeling and share tips on how to cope during the festive season,” Dr Carbone said.
“A team of moderators and 18 community champions who have been affected by depression, anxiety and suicide monitor comments as they come in.
“It’s a great way to speak about issues you might find difficult raising with a friend or family member, and there will always be someone who can offer support and guide you on the right approach.”
The CHRISTMAS 2017/NEW YEARS Chillout Lounge thread is one of many beyondblue forums available online at beyondblue.org.au/get-support/online-forums
Mental health professionals are available 24/7 at the beyondblue Support Service – 1300 22 4636 or viabeyondblue.org.au/get-support for online chat (3pm-12am ADST) or email responses (within 24 hours).