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December 2017 Edition
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.
blue holiday
Dealing with the Holiday Blues
TSPN would like to offer the following tips for dealing with the stress and "blue" periods during the holidays:  
  • Establish realistic goals and expectations. Do not assume the season will fix all your past problems.
  • Don't feel obliged to feel festive, especially when you don't. Your feelings are valid, and you should not feel obligated to "cheer up".
  • If you have recently experienced a tragedy, death, or romantic break-up, feel free to tell people about your loss and what you need from them.
  • Express your feelings honestly and openly. If you need to confront someone, begin your sentences with "I feel..." rather than "You are...".
  • Know your budget and stick to it. Enjoy holiday activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations or window-shopping.
  • Limit your alcohol intake, especially if you suffer from depression or angry moods.
If someone you know is feeling down or upset this holiday season:  
  • Try to involve that person in holiday activities, but don't force them.
  • Be a good listener. If people feel depressed, hopeless, or worthless, or express suicidal thoughts, be supportive. Let them know you are there for them and are willing to connect them with the help they need. Never issue challenges or dares.
  • Familiarize yourself with resources such as local mental health centers, counseling centers, and hotlines.
  • If the depressed person is chronically ill, make it clear that you realize that the holidays do not cure the illness.
  • Holidays can be difficult for people, especially when reality doesn't measure up to their expectations. Help them understand what is realistic and what is not.
Donating to TSPN
While you have many options for donating to charity this holiday season, we would appreciate it if you considered a gift to TSPN.
TSPN is under the administrative oversight of the Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee (MHAMT), a 501(c)3 non-profit registered with the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
Donations received by TSPN through MHAMT are used to:
  • subsidize the printing of TSPN resource directories and other publications to be distributed at suicide prevention training sessions, health fairs, school assemblies, civic group presentations, and other venues.
  • support the continued operation of regional support groups for survivors of suicide and survivors of suicide attempts.
  • finance the recruitment and training of new suicide prevention instructors who will spread the message of suicide prevention across Tennessee.
Your support can help us bring suicide prevention and mental health awareness to communities across Tennessee, possibly saving lives. We can arrange for you or someone you designate to receive notice of the donation and the person it honors or memorializes.
Full information about donating to TSPN is available by clicking the button at the bottom of this message.
Images sourced from (1) National Candle Association; (2); and (3)