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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.

The idea that more people commit suicide around the holidays is a myth.

"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.


GIF via Chris Thompson/SupDaily/YouTube.

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.

Yep.

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.

Image by Andrew Mason/Wikimedia Commons.

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.

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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via Matt Radick / Flickr

Joe Biden reversed Donald Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military earlier this year, allowing the entire LGBTQ community to serve for the first time.

Anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. military goes as far back as 1778 when Lieutenant Frederick Gotthold Enslin was convicted at court-martial on charges of sodomy and perjury. The military would go on to make sodomy a crime in 1920 and worthy of dishonorable discharge.

In 1949 the Department of Defense standardized its anti-LGBT regulations across the military, declaring: "Homosexual personnel, irrespective of sex, should not be permitted to serve in any branch of the Armed Forces in any capacity, and prompt separation of known homosexuals from the Armed Forces is mandatory."

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