We often reach out during the holidays to the poor and homeless — sponsoring a family during Christmas, or distributing toys to children without presents. However, we often forget those that suffer just as intensely within the walls of psych wards or prisons, the mentally ill that can be so awkward to visit. I was touched by this post by Sandra Kiume at Psych Central. I’ve published an excerpt below.
But for others, Christmas is one of the worst days of the year. Maybe there is no family to be with, or family has turned their back on mental illness. Maybe it’s a grief anniversary that worsens depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Maybe poverty prevents full participation. Whatever the reason, there are a fair number of Christmas “orphans” who won’t be singing along to Jingle Bells.
Readers in the former category will be offline busy with their celebrations but as a web veteran I know that people in the latter group will be online feeling worse because nobody’s posting. So, I will be here, with info and inspiration and empathy. Links and fun stuff.
Then there are those who won’t be online at all, people who are homeless or hospitalized or (shockingly) don’t use the Internet. Charities distribute hampers to poor children and some host festive dinners, etc., but often those attempts at inclusion take place weeks before the actual holiday and on Christmas Day itself the silence in the void is even more acute.
Every year, I go to my local hospital’s psych ward to deliver a pound of good (decaf) coffee to brighten the day of everyone in the ward, and a gender-neutral gift for someone in the ward who will not otherwise receive a gift. The nurses decide on the recipient.
Why? I am sure there are worse situations, there are those suffering from war and abuse and crimes, but really one of the most miserable sensations someone with mental illness may experience is being alone in the hospital on Christmas and utterly forgotten by people. Other people in the ward get visits and flowers, while the person with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder sits in a corner and feels more left out, stigmatized and abandoned than ever. It’s these people, and their online counterparts, I want to help on the loneliest day of the year.