All that holiday frivolity and togetherness may sound good in songs and movies, and a lot of people do indeed get mighty joyful – but experts say there is also a dark flip side of sadness, rage and depression that flares between Thanksgiving and post-New Year’s.
Most people hold their feelings together during the run-up to the new year, but once the holiday letdown sets it in, calls to suicide hot lines nearly double and homicides hit their highest rate of the year. Police officers, crisis counselors and people like Smither put in some long days and nights.
Nationally, the greatest number of homicides in any given year happen just after New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Index. Suicides spike right after New Year’s.
“People tend to postpone getting any help for the blues during the holidays, when they need them the most, so they go into a sort of state of suspended denial,” said Eve Meyer, executive director of the San Francisco Suicide Prevention hot line. “So the period leading right up to New Year can actually be kind of slow for us. But then it all sinks in.
“Right after the first football game on Jan. 1, the calls start pouring in,” she said. “Our volume goes up by 20 percent right away and builds from there.”
No matter what day of the year, suicide is still just as fatal. One out of every five deaths in persons in the 15-24 year old group is due to suicide! That’s 20%! Suicide is the second cause of death among persons aged 25-34 years, the fourth among person aged 35-54 years, and the eighth among person 55-64 years.
Suicide is often preventable. Suicide is four times higher among males than females. About 80% of suicides are by males. That does not mean you should ignore or discount risk factors in females. They kill themselves too.
Any suicidal idealization or attempts must be addressed promptly and properly. Last year, among youths in grades 9-12, 16% reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months.
Some of the risk factors include: alcohol and/or drug abuse, previous suicide attempts, depression, loss/grief, family history of suicide, being a victim of violence, feeling alone, withdrawing from others, feeling trapped or hopeless (like there is no way out), having uncontrollable rage, having pathological thoughts of revenge, physical illness, anniversary reactions, and others.
- January is deadliest time of year for suicides.
- The facts about suicide during the New Year.
- Getting help
Pushed Over The Edge
Most people who start feeling suicidal during the holidays are dealing with depression already, and what pushes them over the edge is the conflict between grim reality and an anticipation of idyllic togetherness, bounteous presents and yuletide joy.
“That expectation that this time we will all pull together, my family will finally love me, I will find someone to love in this magical time of year – all that stuff looks great in the magazines and movies, but it rarely really happens like that,” Meyer said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.
If you know someone who is suicidal or you think is suicidal, ask about it. Asking about suicidal ideation actually helps. Asking about suicide does not put suicidal thoughts in anyone’s head. And, once things are “out in the open” seek appropriate help. That help often includes treatment for a Substance Use Disorder.
Of note is the fact that 33.3% of persons who killed themselves tested positive for alcohol, 21% were positive for opiates, and 23% were positive for antidepressants. Any person with a substance use disorder and suicidal ideation requires inpatient treatment. Why? Because suicide attempts are three times greater in an outpatient program than in a residential program. Addiction is often a fatal disease but it is not a death sentence unless you choose it to be.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is a great resource for learning about suicide. There are several downloadable fact sheets. That’s www.cdc.gov
About the Data | Suicide Attempts