Widespread Holiday Suicide Myth Obscures Real Causes of Suicide and Depression
Mental health experts continue to battle the widespread myth that suicides are more common during the holiday season, a belief that distorts and oversimplifies the root causes of suicide.
According to the
National Center for Health Statistics within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the month of December typically posts the lowest suicide rate compared to the other months. More suicides tend to occur in the spring and fall months. More importantly, suicide can occur during any time of the year, a point typically overlooked in media reports on the alleged holiday suicide phenomenon.
However, the myth persists despite the best efforts of mental health experts. A 2010 analysis by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) found that 50% of news articles published over a recent three-month period referencing both suicide and the holiday season repeated the false notion that suicides increase during this time of year.
Part of the myth's staying power may lie in the genuine stress and anxiety that plagues some people during the holidays. This is especially true for people who have recently lost a loved one and are facing holidays and other special observances without them. The recent recession and its aftermath may place an additional burden on some people and families. Finally, people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder experience worsening symptoms as the days grow shorter.
Experts argue that repeating this myth could do more harm than good. It may make people with suicidal tendencies and their loved ones unnecessarily nervous. Furthermore, people who are considering suicide may assume that they may as well go through with an attempt. "You don't want to convey the message that this is acceptable or that there's a good reason to do it," explains Dan Romer, the APPC researcher who compiled the holiday suicide myth study, explained in a news report on the phenomenon. Finally, the myth obscures the fact that many people suffer from chronic depression or mental illness, conditions far more likely to lead to suicide than passing "blue" periods.
As a service to its readers, TSPN would like to provide suggestions for helping yourself and your loved ones deal with holiday stress and holiday blues (see following section).
We wish you all the best during this holiday season and thank you for all your support during the past year. We look forward to seeing and working with you during the year to come.