Suicide Rates and the Holidays - Fake News
For many, the holiday season brings feelings of joy, peace and comfort. We fully embrace all that it offers - the hopeful, happy music, the twinkling decorations, smells of cinnamon and cedar, gatherings of friends and families, and the abundance of good food and cheer. It is the only time of year when warm smiles and well-wishes from perfect strangers could not feel more appropriate.
However, we so often hear that suicide rates increase during this festive season.
It is easy to believe. The tormented souls around us who are witnessing the joy and peace of the season are forced to contemplate their own dismal existence and are driven to suicide.
However, what we have heard for so long, is simply not true. It is wide spread myth.
Although we may hear that suicide rates increase, the fact is that this is just not true. In fact, it is the very opposite. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, reports that the fact of the matter is that the suicide rate is the lowest in December.
The Media Perpetuates the Myth
The Mayo Clinic and an extensive, 35 year study by the Olmstead County also found no link. Read more here.
It is simply a myth, however, the media has been perpetuating this myth.
Media Perpetuates the Myth
The Annenberg Public Policy Center tracked media reports about the false holidays-suicide link and in some years found that 50 percent of the articles written perpetuated the myth, although that number is finally dropping year by year.
While this is good news, there will still be people who are contemplating suicide and the fact remains that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the USA.
It is good to try to be aware of those who are lonely or depressed, now, or at any time of year who might be considering suicide.
According the Mayo Clinic, here are some of the signals that might tell you someone is at risk, although sometimes, some people may remain very secretive.
Possible signs that someone is contemplating suicide
Talking about suicide and fixation with death, dying or violence, or unusual 'goodbyes'
Talking about suicide, even jokingly, is the obvious sign of suicidal behavior. It may be a cry for help. The person may express that they wish they were dead, had not been born, or that they will kill themselves. Fixations with death or violence are indicators. They might say goodbye in a way that seems like they might not see you ever again, or begin giving away items.
Getting the means to kill oneself
If a person acquires a gun or you notice a stockpile of pills, be aware.
Wanting to be alone
Pay attention to people who are choosing to be alone rather than going out or wanting to be around people.
Mood swings and behavior changes in eating or sleeping and personality changes
Seeing someone going from extremes - from happy to very sad from one day to the next might be a cause for concern, along with notable changes in sleeping and eating patterns. Severe anxiety or signs of being agitated might be signals of a problem.
Feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
Suicidal people have a hard time seeing good things in their future.
Increasing use of alcohol or drugs and reckless behavior
A person who no longer cares about their life, no longer cares about their health and exhibits destructive behavior, like reckless driving or drug use.
What to do if you suspect someone is thinking suicidal thoughts
Encourage professional help
Do what you can to get the person to a recommended professional counselor. Offer to make the appointment or accompany them there. If the danger is imminent, call a crisis line.
Be proactive and positive
Sometimes those who are suicidal do not believe they can be helped. Be positive and offer counseling and be proactive. Just saying "Call me if you need anything" is not enough. Call them and keep tabs on them and let them know you care.
If they have become worse from any medication prescribed, make the physician who is treating them be aware of this.
Encourage positive change
Encourage exercise, healthy eating, sunshine, sleep and nature walks.
Develop a safely plan
Help the person make a safety plan - a set of steps to follow during a crisis. Click here for a template.
Remove dangerous items
If possible, help them remove possible means of suicide, like knives, guns or pills.
Continue to support them
Become a good friend and confidant that will continue to be a positive support to them in the future.
If you have any comments or questions or stories, please share them below.