The myth that suicides increase at Christmas

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There is a common belief that the number of suicides increases in December and January. People believe that the holiday season combined with the cold weather and lower sunlight leads to higher levels of suicide. It is not true.

Statistics show that suicides are highest in spring and that no increase in suicides is recorded during the holiday period. It is unknown where this myth came from but it is not true today and has never been true. The movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ may be partly responsible as it is one of the most popular Christmas movies and portrays a man contemplating suicide during Christmas. However, the idea that suicides would increase just because of the holiday season is part of a great misunderstanding of what actually causes suicide. 

While external factors can have a role to play in suicide there are usually larger internal forces at play. Whether someone is suffering from depression, trauma, or something else it is these factors that are often more important. Pointing to the holiday season as a leading cause often means people never discover the true cause of suicide. There was one town that did historically have a high rate of suicides during the holiday season. Everyone talked about the issue as if nothing could be done (they couldn’t cancel Christmas). However further research indicated that the largest employer in the town was firing people every year before Christmas. It was this factor that was leading to increased depression.

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Of course, every act of suicide is unique and it is very possible that some people will commit suicide because of the holiday season, there are no rules. However, the statistics show that it is not a time of increased danger. There are two reasons for this. One is that people are distracted. During the holiday season, there is a lot to do. Even if your coworkers and neighbors don’t spend much time with you all year long, they may do so during the holiday season, this usually means people are too preoccupied to consider suicide. As well people treat each other well at this time of year. Perhaps if we treated each other like we do at Christmas we would have lower rates of suicide all year round. The second factor that could be leading to lower suicide rates during the holiday season is energy. People have less energy during the winter months. While that may sound simplistic, suicide requires a great deal of energy. While people may feel down and depressed during winter most will lack the energy to contemplate or act a suicide.

That does not mean someone who is contemplating suicide won’t go through with because it is Christmas. If you know anyone who is suffering or you are suffering please find help before you (or they) do something that there is no turning back from. There is always a better option than suicide. While your world may be crumbling around you, you can always escape it. If you are in a state where you think you may do something try and survive until tomorrow. See a friend or if that is not possible, go to the emergency room. Tell the people in ER that you are contemplating suicide and they will help you until the morning comes. Who knows, by the morning things may seem a little better.

The key takeaway from this article is not that during the holiday season suicides are lower. It is that we shouldn’t take for granted what causes suicide. Everyone is unique and has a different reason for making this decision that we don’t understand. If we can all be a more understanding of those around us, perhaps we can help to lower the rates of this tragic occurrence.

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