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.


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.

Family

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
Amy Johnson

The first day of school can be both exciting and scary at the same time — especially if it's your first day ever, as was the case for a nervous four-year-old in Wisconsin. But with a little help from a kind bus driver, he was able to get over his fear.

Axel was "super excited" waiting for the bus in Augusta with his mom, Amy Johnson, until it came time to actually get on.

"He was all smiles when he saw me around the corner and I started to slow down and that's when you could see his face start to change," his bus driver, Isabel "Izzy" Lane, told WEAU.

The scared boy wouldn't get on the bus without help from his mom, so she picked him up and carried him aboard, trying to give him a pep talk.

"He started to cling to me and I told him, 'Buddy, you got this and will have so much fun!'" Johnson told Fox 7.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared
via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information