A little early on the announcement? Not really… just want to give you a heads up to the untruth of many urban stories about Christmas being a time of high risk for suicide an depression. Although there are certainly many who feel the discouragement of the economic situation and being lonely during holiday family times, Christmas, Thanksgiving and other major holidays are actually a time of reduced risk for suicide. Experts reason that it could be due to the many expressions of compassion during the winter months, and special collections by the Salvation Army, homeless shelters and other humanitarian groups.
Perhaps like me you’ve ‘walked a mile in those shoes’ and been in the situation of not having food or finances for the type of meal or celebration commonly advertised. I’ve also experienced the danger of comparative shopping after listening to family or friends share their shopping lists, and spending more than I have. I always eventually realized many truths later – including that the feelings of depression arose from a period of focusing on perceived needs or wants for my family or myself. Every time the focus got moved to others – especially others that were in the same situation or even less fortunate, the sadness lifted. Times when I/we were able to spend time with or help others in whatever small way were uplifting – even though the circumstances of our difficult situations had not changed.
There are many who are still without work and the homeless shelters are usually full most of winter. Call your local agencies and check their needs. Look around your own neighborhood and see if a package of mittens and gloves, or pajamas and cocoa could encourage a needy family. Toss an extra package of food in the grocery cart for the food banks, and then start filling a January Box. As you are making preparations slip an item or two in the freezer to share in the coming months. When you shop all those great deals at before and after Christmas sales, add some games and a few packages of socks, mittens, or underwear to the box. When you have leftovers, package single servings to bring to a senior who lives alone.
Plan now what you can share, or where you can schedule to visit beginning in January. Whether it’s sharing a loaf of bread, a plate of cookies, or a pot of soup, a gas or grocery card, or spending time visiting and reading at local nursing homes, Childrens hospital, homeless veterans housing, Pacific Garden Mission, Salvation Army or other local Missions, you will be uplifted. The hope you share could even change the statistics for the time of the highest rates for depression and suicide – January first through the spring.
Even more important than “giving” Christmas is living it. So when all the hustle and bustle is over, sit down and write a card to your local VA hospital or to: A recovering American Soldier c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center 6900 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20307-5001 and drop it in your January box. When the decorations are gone and voices of carolers are no longer heard in the halls, the soldiers will greatly appreciate receiving a visit or a mail call.
Let a January box be among your resolutions for this coming year.