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“Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?” – Beatles, Help!

I’m taking advantage of the time of year to remind us that holidays don’t always leave people happy. In fact with some, it really makes them unhappy.

People who are depressed, struggle with dependency issues, have a mental illness or are going through a life inflection point may have a hard time with the holidays. And, so, it feels like the right time to share some “how to be an awesome person for others” best practices.

1 – If you see that someone is having problems, speak up. It may feel awkward to ask why someone may not be engaging, seems super sad, is detached or is upset about the holidays. Simply asking gives that person the option to share.

2 – If someone says that they feel like the world is better off without them – stop, look and listen. Find out if they have a plan and if they do, call 911 or emergency services and get them help. It’s better to be wrong and call for help than be right and do nothing. EMTs, hospitals and doctors far prefer that someone gets help rather than lose a life because the help wasn’t offered.

3 – Depression isn’t rational. Your brain chemicals aren’t the same and your thinking is different. A depressed person may not have rational and logical answers and responses to ordinary events. If you know someone who is depressed and not getting professional help – make a wellness check call for them. Let a professional visit them and check in so that they can assess the situation.

4 – If you know someone who has nowhere to go for the holidays and you have room, invite them to your holiday gathering.

5 – Holidays are busy times – it’s worth taking the few minutes to check in with yourself as well. Are you just full bore get things done for the holiday mode? If so, take 10 minutes to meditate, contemplate or do something that is #givefirst. Give that homeless person an extra dollar, buy a gift for TOYS FOR TOTS, volunteer an hour at a shelter, donate to a food pantry, buy a coat for someone who doesn’t have one.

6 – If you know someone has a dependency problem and you see that they are struggling, ask how you can help. Maybe you can make time to go to an AA meeting with them, share a cup of coffee with them or take a walk. Holiday times are fraught with events that are planned around food and alcohol which can be exclusive and hard for people with dependency problems.

The real gift at the holidays is being mindful – of yourself and those around you. All the material things in the world won’t matter if the people that we share with aren’t as healthy as possible in both mind and body. Help is hard to ask for – and it’s not always easy to know when to offer help. If someone extends a hand, reach out and take it!

We encourage everyone to become educated on mental health and important issues around it. Here is a list of resources for anyone who thinks they may be suffering from mental health issues, or anyone who wants to learn more about the topic.


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Jenny Lawton Jenny Lawton
A long-time tech leader, Jenny Lawton is the COO of Techstars. Previously, she joined littleBits Electronics, Inc., as chief strategy officer (later promoted to COO), and served as interim CEO of MakerBot, a global leader in the 3D printing industry. @jennylawton