Mental health issues don't ease during the holiday season - and can even be heightened - so vital services shouldn't take a break either say hospital staff.
News this week that the Shoalhaven sub-acute mental health unit will close for several weeks over the Christmas-New Year period was not welcomed by nurse and union representative Glenn Hayes.
Mr Hayes, the president of the district's NSW Nurses and Midwives Association mental health nurses branch, said the move would mean some people would not have the services they required at this vital time.
Others would be forced to travel to Shellharbour Hospital to access the services there - which are already under pressure.
"If consumers who have used the Shoalhaven unit require further intervention or admission during that period they will have to go to Shellharbour or Wollongong," Mr Hayes said.
"That's an added burden for them and only adds to the isolation they will feel being in hospital at a time of year when traditionally families do get together."
Labor's mental health spokeswoman Tara Moriarty was also opposed to the closure of services at this time.
"All mental health beds and units should remain fully open over the holiday period," she said.
"This has been one of the most difficult years in our history and more mental health support is needed, not less.
"It's appalling that the government would allow a service to close or be reduced in any way, especially over the holiday period."
However Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District mental health servicves acting director Adam Bryant said the Shoalhaven sub-acute mental health unit typically closed temporarily over the period.
"Historically, there has been a decrease in demand by consumers for the unit over Christmas and New Year's, as people tend to either delay their admission or take some time out from the inpatient unit to spend time with family, friends and carers," he said.
"Plans for the upcoming break, including specific closure dates, are still being worked through based on the needs of our consumers.
"The sub-acute unit at Shoalhaven Hospital does not take any emergency or acute inpatients. A temporary closure of the service does not impact on the provision of emergency care or acute mental health inpatient services."
Mr Bryant said the district's acute mental health units remained open at all times, and emergency departments were also open every day of the year.
"The local health district will continue to provide acute mental health services in both the community and hospital setting throughout the Christmas and New Year period," he said.
"Any mental health consumers from the local area requiring sub-acute type care during any temporary closure over this period will be accommodated in the mental health rehabilitation unit at Shellharbour Hospital."
However Mr Hayes said the holiday period was always a busy one for mental services at Shellharbour, which was operating with fewer beds due to staff shortages.
Mr Bryant confirmed that the district had reconfigured Shellharbour's Eloura Acute Admission Area "in order to better meet the clinical needs of consumers while they are acutely unwell".
"Under this configuration, 17 of the unit's 20 beds are currently being utilised, which allows staff greater flexibility in meeting the individual needs of consumers on the ward, such as instances where more space is required," he said.