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The flip side to the holiday season

Candlelight vigil
Kerwin/ Flickr Commons

The holiday season is here. You can tell just by looking at the decorative lights and decorations. Most people are busy preparing for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. They are excitedly purchasing Christmas trees and wrapping presents to exchange with love ones, and purchasing food to serve traditional dishes that reflect their ethnicity and culture.

There is another segment of our population who also notices the holiday season. For them, it can be an isolating time, a time when they realize that something is missing in their life. They can feel a little melancholy because they have no family or they are estranged from their family. They may feel envious because their friends have close relationships with their relatives. They may feel inadequate because they cannot maintain their relationships.

Others may enter into a deeper state of depression. The depressive state may have already been there, yet is heightened because of the holiday season. They too may want to be festive and joyous but cannot muster the strength to do so. Families can come together because of an engagement, a wedding or the birth of a baby. Families can also fall apart because of divorce and death.

These stressors can culminate, though not often, into suicide. Suicide is the ultimate stressor that tears a family apart. Suicide is magnified during the holiday season, likely it’s because of economic factors. It can also occur because of pressure placed on individuals by themselves. The survivors are left wondering why, and question themselves as to what they could have done to prevent such a tragedy.

It could very well be that they felt this way all year long. But there is something about the holiday season that brings those feelings to the surface, in an almost urgent, violent, and lasting manner. Mental health issues triggered the infamous young adults in the news this year to do what they did. No one knows what triggered today’s massacre. Whatever the reason, the actions will be studied for years to come.

The holiday season is meant to be a religious celebration. Instead it has become anything and everything but a religious celebration. Perhaps we as a nation need to re-examine ourselves, re-examine our culture, revisit the meaning of the holiday season.