AMHERST - Spending the holiday season alone can make anyone a little depressed.
But for those with mental illnesses, it can hit even harder.
That's why staff and some of the clients of Cumberland Mental Health spent a few hours Monday preparing Christmas dinner for other clients.
"We started doing this for people who don't have anywhere to go at Christmas," said client Joan Bird while wearing a bright red chef's hat with 'Christmas cook' written across the top.
"I think it's a great thing, myself, because it gets people out of their apartments and helps others," she added.
This is the third year the clients will be invited to the Christmas dinner, being held today.
It started after clients started preparing food for socialization group meetings at the organization.
Christiana MacDougall, a social worker helping prepare the dinner, said not only is the dinner a chance for clients to get out and socialize when they might have been alone over the holidays, but it's a chance to teach the clients how to prepare foods for a large group of people.
"The first year was a small turnout, but now we're preparing for about 60 people," MacDougall said, adding the clients would also help serve the meal.
For Theresa Ryan of Oxford, the thought of the dinner was a great idea since she was taking a cooking course with Cumberland Mental Health's psychologist, Pam Chenhall.
"My two oldest children teach in Korea and my other daughter is in New Glasgow and spends Christmas with her boyfriend's family. For me, this is the only way to get together with my friends," she said.
Ryan said those with mental illnesses that are alone on Christmas suffer more depression than normal, so it's good to get out and socialize.
And that's what Gloria Brown plans to do.
It's her first year helping prepare the dinner.
"The dinner sounded really good to be involved in," she said.
MacDougall said a lot of people underestimate what those with mental illnesses are capable of.
"A lot of people with mental illnesses are told to take it easy, but here we have a small group of people preparing dinner for about 60 people," MacDougall said.
"It's about giving of yourself and, in return, getting something out of it," added Ryan.