Holiday Suicide is a Myth — And an Opportunity for Awareness

depressed woman christmas tree holiday

The popular notion of suicide rates spiking around the holidays is a myth, according to years of data the Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] collected. Suicides rates are actually lowest during December and peak in the spring. The media perpetuates this myth, but it isn’t the worst kind of lie.

Suicide awareness and prevention is a conversation we should be having during all seasons, so why not take advantage of the media’s holiday blues invention? It’s a chance to look out for the people we care about and be proactive rather than waiting until spring. Riding the wave of media coverage will allow you to reach more people via social media as well.

Suicide has some startling statistics: an estimated 8.3 million people think of suicide each year. According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention, someone dies from suicide every 40 seconds. That’s over 800,000 deaths by suicide per year. For every person who dies by suicide, another 20 people attempt it.

We have a duty to protect our peers and the people we care for, so here are seven things you should know about suicide awareness and prevention.

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”

―Seneca

There Are Plenty of Resources at Your Disposal

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has both an online chat and 24/7 phone line at 1-800-273-8255 if you are thinking of suicide or need help for a loved one.
  • The Trevor Project, which seeks to serve LGBT youth, has a 24/7 suicide prevention line at 866-488-7386.
  • Trans Lifeline hosts a unique program which offers peer counselors to transgender people thinking of suicide (US: 877-565-8860, Canada: 877-330-6366).

These are a select few resources to reach out to if you or a loved one is facing suicidal thoughts and behavior. If you or someone you care about needs immediate help, please call 911 or emergency personnel in your local area to receive immediate support.

Mental Health Plays a Critical Role in Suicide

While not everyone who has committed or attempted suicide has had a diagnosable mental health condition, research reflects that people living with diagnoses such as major depression and bipolar disorder make up 30-70% of deaths. Alcohol use also plays a critical role in lowering inhibitions and fostering poor impulse control. Proper treatment for mental health and substance abuse conditions is essential to any suicide awareness or prevention activity.

Suicide Has Common and Prevalent Warning Signs

Research has found that many people who attempt or commit suicide exhibit troubling feelings and behaviors leading up to their attempts. Examples include: recurring thoughts of death or suicide, talking a lot about death and suicide, expressing thoughts of feeling like a burden on others and feelings of hopelessness. There are many other signs often associated with suicide risk. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education has a useful list of warning signs to look out for so you can help prevent suicide.

Certain Demographics Experience Elevated Rates of Suicide

Suicide prevention efforts have historically focused on young white men. Research has shown others who experience ongoing discrimination such as LGBT youth, indigenous populations and refugees experience elevated rates of suicide. According to the World Health Organization [WHO], suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds.

Older Adults Should Be a Focus

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide rates were highest for people aged 45 years and older. Factors such as increasing isolation, depression and difficult medical conditions are among some of the risk factors associated with aging adults.

Suicide Awareness and Prevention Helps Dismantle Crippling Stigma

The focus on suicide awareness helps break down the stigma of mental health issues and hopelessness many of us face in the wake of personal tragedy. Projects such as Live Through This help empower all of us to have meaningful conversations about suicide prevention and awareness.

Social Media Has Stepped Up Its Game

As we all live more of our lives online, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have adopted self-harm reporting forms you may use if you are concerned about a status or tweet you view on someone’s timeline.  You can access Facebook’s “Report Suicide Content” page and Twitter’s “Report Self Harm” page.

It’s time for us to notice warning signs and offer our support to those who need it the most. You can save the life of someone you care about. This is greater than any material gift you can give during the holidays.

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