Yet another in the mental health series…
We’re almost through another holiday season. There is only New Year’s Eve left, and that is really just for the desperate and amateur partiers. While battling for a parking spot, slugging it out in Toys R Us for some must have toy, or suffering through a great aunt’s thirty seventh retelling of how it was during the war, most of us put on a kinder face in this season. We’re thankful for our loved ones and what we have. We’re more tolerant and considerate; except when it comes to that parking spot.
We drop some coins in the faux iron kettle outside the grocery store. We have meaningful conversations with our children about how fortunate we are. We pause to give thanks to soldiers and nurses and teachers. We are sympathetic and helpful to those we see struggling.
Why does it have to be just once a year? I know individuals do good throughout the year. I’m speaking of a societal level shift. Around Christmas, we take cookies to our neighbors we don’t speak to the rest of the year. We have parties with people we haven’t seen since the last Christmas party. We enjoy good food, we laugh, we savor time with loved ones, and we are kinder to our fellow man. We volunteer, and we donate. Why only this arbitrary date on the calendar? It isn’t Jesus’ actual birthdate as far as anyone can prove. More significantly, why aspire to a higher level of Christ emulation only on his birthday?
In our celebration of the season, we reach out. We invite the lonely widow over for tea and cookies. We toss snowballs with the kids we call delinquents the rest of the year. We worry about those alone and without. There is a perception that the depressed and suicidal become more so during the holidays. It isn’t true; at least according to the CDC. Suicide rate is the lowest in the month of December. Perhaps that is exactly because of our reaching out. If so, we as a society have great power that we squander eleven months of the year.
Suicides peak in the spring and fall. Save some of your holiday spirit for those times. It doesn’t have to be once a year that we look around for those we can help. The ills of the world work year round. When your tulips push through the snow, reach out. That homeless person is homeless every day; not just at the holidays when you give him money.
Yes, that homeless person may not be homeless. He may be scamming. He may “just” be mentally ill. I say err on the side of compassion. If suicide rates drop in December because of the spirit of the season, just imagine what you can do in May.