December is Mental Health Awareness month.  Janice Collins, senior internal communication manager at SGN Gas and Director of Lifelink, blogs about the issue.

You’re mental.  In parts of Glasgow that’s considered a compliment, but the sad fact is if you said it to four people anywhere in the country, chances are on one occasion you’d be medically correct (albeit quite politically incorrect).

Mental health is a major problem now considered to be of epidemic proportions.  Not that you’d know it, because it’s one of the last remaining taboos.  Most people would rather talk about their boobs and bottoms than their brains.

As comedian Ruby Wax quips: “how come when every other organ in your body gets sick you get sympathy, except for the brain?”

Ruby and fellow comics Spike Milligan, Tony Hancock, Stephen Fry, Paul Merton and Robin Williams all suffered from mental health problems.

Of course it’s not just comedians who are affected. We can add to that list Winston Churchill, Amy Winehouse, Paul McKenna, Dame Kelly Holmes and Frank Bruno….the list goes on. Rich or poor, old or young, male or female, celebrity or not, depression does not discriminate.

I’ve even had a brush with it myself, which is why I volunteered to join the Board of a charity that helps people cope with stress, anxiety and depression through counselling and group work.

But why is it such a problem and why should we care?

If left untreated, depression can lead to suicide and young males account for a shocking 80% of all suicides in Britain. So the next time you think someone “seems a bit down,” be kind and be aware it could be something more.

This is all serious stuff so why bring it up when ‘tis the season to be jolly?

Well, apart from it being mental health awareness month, Christmas and New Year can be really stressful (especially having to be around family members we spend the rest of the year avoiding.  Just me?  No, thought not).

Christmas can be fun but it can also mean family conflicts, alcohol misuse, and domestic violence.

We published some top tips earlier this week to keep you sane and see you through the festivities, but if you have some stress-busting tips of your own, feel free to share them in the comments.

And finally, if all else fails, go for the canine approach!