December can be a month filled with joys and challenges. It is almost impossible to turn on the TV now without scenes of happy families gathering around a well stocked table, all smiles and joy, celebrating holiday and family time. Be it Hannukah, Christmas or Kwanza, we will be inundated with Hallmark card type scenes of family solidarity, joy and love. And, for many this will be true.
Yet, one can only wonder as to the millions of people who see these scenes and react by retreating into their own self and soul. Being alone, or having to deal with aspects of mental illness, can negate these idyllic scenes. Indeed, the statistics of self harm, even suicide, that occurs during the so-called “holiday” season, are well documented.
It is fascinating, in a way, that the media assumes that everyone has this happy family support to return to. Even the “holiday” music dwells on this hope. What, however, can one do to maintain their sense of self during these days, especially when they are alone, either physically or psychologically.
Religious communities can be of great help here. If people in a faith community know of people who are isolated and alone, it is a beautiful deed to reach out to them to make sure they are taken care of and that people are there for them. Obviously, may communities reach out to feed and shelter the homeless. However, I am also referring to the people who live within our community, not homeless, but who are alone. These weeks present a major challenge.
The mental health component of this season continues to be of concern. I recently came across a resource provided in a newsletter of the Mental Health Ministries. This is an organization that focuses in on mental health support from a faith perspective.
They just released a brochure entitled: Mental Illness” Coping With the Holidays. It begins with a “Tips for Communities of Faith” column which emphasizes the need for a relational approach to these individuals. There are also columns on “Tips for Persons Living With Mental Illness” and one on “Tips for Family and Friends”.
This issue can be, and often is, a family systems issue. How do we include our cousin or brother or parent in our family celebrations? How do we secure their safety and sense of welcome? In the midst of so much celebration in these coming weeks, it is wise not to forget the many people who may be “left out”. Being seen as “the other” only raises the sense of isolation that may be felt.
The website for the Mental Health Ministry is: www.MentalHealthMinistries.net
May this holiday season bring you and all your loved ones joy, health and peace.