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How to Cope with Stigma and Discrimination Through the Holidays

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Stigma and discrimination are around creating havoc all year round. So why do December and the holiday season think that they can be exempt from any of this? Hope for a better day and life ahead is here for all to avail ourselves of. Naturally, December will have plenty of hope and a fair share of stigma and discrimination. My role is to assist everyone through their time in the labyrinth. At least, I will do my best in our journey. Ready to begin – I know I am.

Ho, Ho, Ho! Hope is in the air. High Hopes originally sung by Frank Sinatra and performed by others, mention a probability that there is hope for all of us. Sadly, both stigma and discrimination are here, too. Especially, during these holidays, they speak of bad times and cruelty. Of course, there are many non-believers who go around spouting negativity like: ‘Bah humbug,’ or ‘There is no Santa Claus.’

There is still hope, continue to read on. However, on planet Earth, we have other religions with many ideas.

My focus is to discuss hope for mental health as related to holidays. No belief is necessary. Yes, stigma and discrimination, as well. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Isn’t that what the December holidays are all about? ‘Hatikvah’, the national anthem of Israel, literally means our hope. This anthem was written and published as a poem in 1876 or 1877 and when the state of Israel was finally established in 1948, the first stanza and refrain were adopted as its national anthem.

In the Middle East, each religion or culture use stigma and discrimination methods to gain an advantage. When one is from a specific religion, treating people from a different faith as evil or devil worshippers is their way to affect the words. Inevitably, this often turns into violence for territorial control. A song by war: Why Can’t We Be Friends? fits the mood quite well and offers hope in our volatile world. Several religions share the same city, Jerusalem, as their focal point. Now, hope comes into play – each religion believes that there is hope that all religions will live in peace and harmony without stigma or discrimination anywhere.

Tell me, everyone, isn’t that what the December holidays are all about? During this time, most of us sing and pray for hope and goodwill towards mankind. On the other side, stigma and discrimination are here too. Christmas time signifies the birth of Jesus who gave people around the world hope with the promise of freedom and prosperity for all. Chanukah is also celebrated with the hope that we survive just as the Maccabees soldiers did all those many years ago. Also, like in the opening lyrics of a song by Peter, Paul, and Mary: ‘Light one candle for the Maccabee children.’ Plus it ends with: ‘Don’t let the lights go out.’ What a concept – put the light on for all to see and let it shine forever and ever.

‘Hope springs eternal,’ an expression by Alexander Pope from his An Essay on Man shares his optimistic point of view. Also, human beings will continue to hope, no matter what the odds. Now, during the holiday season or anytime over the course of the year, hope can come displaying itself in many ways. In contrast to hope, both stigma and discrimination appear also. Hey, it feels and looks like the good versus evil scenarios. In my way and many of us think good wins over evil. However, for many years ahead, hope, stigma and discrimination will have to coexist and be here together. The more we hope, the less those other terms have any effect.

As we close this year of perfect vision this 2020, we have seen stigma and discrimination through many perspectives.

Howard Diamond is a certified peer specialist in New York.


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