‘Tis the season where some adults are giddy with child-like excitement about the holidays. They choose to replace the annoyance and ick of the musty smell of the attic with the joy and yay of the Christmas ornaments and decorations that sent them into the crawlspace. Screaming at kids to put away their toys is hushed to avoid hypocritical glances from sed children as you steal all available shelf space to set up Christmas village.
Other people are unaffected by yuletide greetings. The media spends some of their valuable air time making sure that those people are cared for by airing Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about suicide prevention. What’s wrong with that? The rate of suicide during the holidays is at its lowest all year.
Myths About Suicide
The Annenberg Public Policy Center revealed that 65% of stories during the holiday season “perpetuated the holiday-myth”. In order to help those in need ANY time of the year, it is important to dispel some myths of suicide. Each myth about suicide can best be combatted with a bright beacon of truth.
- Myth: Suicide rates are the highest during the holidays. I blame the lovable Jimmy Stewart and NBC’s annual presentation of the family classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, a movie that revolves around a seasonally depressed family man contemplating suicide. The CDC study of suicide shows the average number of death by suicide is highest in MAY and JULY; it is the lowest in December and November. Perpetuating this fiction means that family and friends who can help a loved one with suicide ideation aren’t receiving the tips needed when they are most useful.
- Myth: Only depressed people die by suicide. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports only 54% of deaths by suicide are by people with diagnosed mental illness. Not only are diagnosed friends and family members receiving help, but they are being constantly assessed by their mental health professional to make sure that the right level of treatment is provided if suicidal thoughts plague their client. Divorce, loss of employment, or diagnosis of serious illness are more likely to foreshadow a suicide attempt because of a shared public sense that seeking help from a mental health provider is reserved for “more serious issues”. These acute stressors, ones that are event-based, should rally friends and family to make sure life’s unpleasant surprises are manageable.
- Myth: Suicide is contagious. This is another media-infused fiction. The polar opposite is the truth. The more we talk about the people who are killed by suicide, the more opportunities we have to educate loved ones about healthy coping skills to deal with life’s not so pleasant presents. Sadly, suicide is one of the many conversations we are afraid to have with our children. They always seem too young to talk about sexual identity/orientation, bullying, and substance abuse…until suicide is the answer to a 9-year old’s emotional pain. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has programs for parents and families to help guide these conversations for children of all ages.
Spark Note Summary
Our social media accounts are populated with our doppelgängers, smiling pictures of our kids making sweet messes while designing art projects to be posted later. Where are the pictures of those same kids screaming at red-faced, exacerbated, overtired parents about how they “don’t wanna play arts and crafts!”? Let’s be brave and post a picture of real life on social media tagged #makeitrealmonday.
*If you, your friend, or family member is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, every day of the year: 1-800-273-8255.