The idea that more people commit suicide around the holidays is a myth.
But it's still a rough time for those with mental illness.
"Tonight, I was ready to take my life."
Thus began a letter from one fan who wrote to video blogger Chris Thompson. That letter continued to tell his story, which really captures the desperation he has felt at times — to a point of attempting suicide. He's 22, gay, living in Sacramento, had depression and bipolar disorder, suffered from addiction, and recently had treatment.
But the letter writer wasn't concerned with himself. He wanted to make sure, with the holidays upon us, that the issues of mental illness and suicide get attention so that sufferers can get help. More about that in a bit.
Each year, around 40,000 people take their own lives.
It's the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans.
But the idea that more people commit suicide around the holidays? It's a myth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that suicide is actually at the lowest rate in December. Spring and fall both see an increase, however.
This myth (possibly a result of the well-known "It's a Wonderful Life" plotline) can make it worse for those suffering from depression; it can actually make people think about suicide more and dwell on the negatives in their lives during the holidays.
That said, our friends and family who have mental issues still need and deserve our support this holiday season.
Some symptoms of depression worsening include:
- A decrease in self care
- Feeling like they have no energy and are slowed down
- Withdrawal from usual connections with family and friends or activities the individual usually likes
- Increased irritability
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Increased use of alcohol or other substances
- Worsening sleep
It's especially acute for LBGTQ folks. According to The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization, LGBTQ young people are four times more likely to attempt suicide, and questioning teens are three times more likely, compared with straight peers.
Here's how you can be alert when your friend or loved one might need intervention.
If they're doing any of these, take note:
- Talking or writing about life not being worth living
- Coming up with or describing a plan to inflict self-harm or to harm others
- Trying to find the means to actually do it
For anybody thinking about suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at (800) 273-TALK (8255). It's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
People with mental health issues could use our support any time of year, but we tend to remember those people much more around the holiday season.
Maybe it's time to reach out to someone you know who recently lost a loved one or has bouts of depression or just could use a friend or family member's loving voice.
I think you'll be glad you did.
Here's the video from Chris Thompson. In some ways it's hard to hear, but it's a good reminder that if you're feeling this way, help is out there.