People who suffer from depression, low mood or anxiety are being urged to seek help over the festive season.

Maureen Watt, Mental Health Minister, paid tribute to those who provide help and support to those dealing with mental health problems associated with stress and loneliness at this time of year.

They include counselling services Breathing Space, Living Life and Samaritans.

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Ms Watt said: “I think our much greater awareness of mental health issues in recent years has highlighted that this can be a difficult time of year for many people.

“Hopefully that increased knowledge also means that people know that they do not need to suffer alone, that support is available and that no-one should ever feel afraid to speak up and ask for help if they feel depressed or anxious.

“I would urge anyone who is feeling low or anxious to reach out to Breathing Space, Samaritans or other services to make sure they get help.”

Experts say stress and anxiety can be reduced over the festive period by avoiding excess alcohol and too much food, exercising, getting enough sleep and talking to others.

Tony McLaren, national co-ordinator of Breathing Space, said: “Remember, if you are experiencing emotional distress during the festive season and feel you can’t talk to your family or friends, then call a phone line such as Breathing Space.

“Our advisers are available every day of the year to listen and offer you support.”