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Research has refuted the idea of “holiday suicide”, the notion that suicides occur more frequently during the holidays. This mistaken belief distorts the truth about what actually drives someone to take his or her life. According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the fewest number of suicides occur during December when compared to the rest of the months of the year. The truth is that suicides occur throughout the year, a fact usually ignored by the media when they report on what they deem the phenomenon of holiday suicide attempts.

Despite mental health experts continually correcting media reports, this myth of holiday suicide continues. In an analysis done in 2010 by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) it was found that half of news articles that came out over a three-month period of time that discussed suicide in the context of the holiday season, continued to spread this false idea that there is an increase in suicide attempts during the holidays.

The reason this myth is so persistent may be due to the anxiety and stress that so many people experience leading up to and during the holiday season. This is even more severe for those who have lost a loved one in the recent past and are anticipating the holidays without their loved one. People diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder also have more pronounced symptoms at this time of year due to the shorter days.

Mental health experts firmly believe that by perpetuating the myth of holiday suicide is detrimental. It adds to the anxiety already being experienced by people who may be contemplating suicide as well as their families. People thinking about this might think they are more at risk of actually attempting suicide. The myth totally obscures the fact that many people are chronically depressed or suffer from a mental illness, and these conditions are much more likely to bring about a suicide than periods of feeling “blue” over the holidays.

Thoughts of Suicide

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts around the holidays, there are some things you can do to reduce holiday stress.  Set more realistic expectations for the holiday season. Do not expect the holiday spirit will wipe away all your problems. Try not to pressure yourself to feel more festive than you actually do. Whatever feelings you have are valid, so do not feel pressured to “just be happy.” If you have recently broken up with your significant other, or had some other tragedy or loss, you don’t need to keep quiet about your loss and sadness. It’s okay to tell your friends and family about this and ask for whatever you need.

Financial stress can also contribute to the rationale of holiday suicide attempts.  Stick to your budget by all means. There are plenty of things that you can do for free to enjoy the holidays, like driving around the neighborhood looking at all the lights or just window-shopping and enjoying getting out amongst the people. Limit the number of drinks you have, especially if you tend to be angry and/or depressed.  Alcohol and drugs reduce inhibition and control and are risk factors for acting on thoughts of suicide.

What to Do For Someone Feeling Down Over the Holidays

Encourage them to join you in some holiday celebrations and activities, but by all means don’t pressure or force them. Find out about local hotlines and other resources in your community that may be of help. If your depressed friend or loved one is suffering from a chronic illness, let them know that you understand the holidays are not the cure-all for their illness. The holiday season is difficult for many people and moreso for people who have unrealistic expectations. If you can help them to understand what is realistic to expect and what is not, that can smooth things out and help them accept the situation and enjoy the holidays a little more.

Because our treatment for depression relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods to prevent suicide.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  It is also important to keep in mind that women and men often experience depression differently and therefore the presence of depression may also appear differently based on gender. If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful and people who have completed our program have resulted in our treatment program receiving very highly consumer satisfaction scores and reviewsCall us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.