Urban Legend: Suicide Is More Frequent During the Holidays

You are Not Alone. You Are Not to Blame.

With Help, You Will Feel Better

Dr. Susan Giurleo  deserves a shout-out for inspiring this holiday season topic.

If you suffer from untreated depression, it may feel like the holiday season is forced levity. You may think and feel like everyone else (except you) is surrounded by a group of friends and family. You may feel lonely and isolated. Your intense loneliness can feel crushing and all-consuming. You might doubt your value as a human being, as a person. As someone who suffers from depression, you know you fight a valiant fight, battle after battle, for self esteem and self-worth.

Maybe most of the time you win the battle, and then, sometimes, maybe there is a convergence of several stressful events: maybe a chronic pain flares up, maybe the lay-offs at work are grinding everyone down, maybe you lost someone important to you. You can easily fill in these blanks.

You get fatigued, your learned coping and self-parenting skills aren’t accessible, and your self-created persona seems to crumble around you with a deluge of the familiar feelings of shame, worthlessness and hopelessness.

You fall into that old beastly way of thinking, black and white thinking. You know that all or nothing feeling, everything is either/or, this or that, frick or frack, male or female, sad or happy, yes or no. No shades of gray exist when you’re swamped by your feelings of depression.

You think, “I’m no good, nothing is ever really be right for me ever, no one will ever like me. I will never feel well again.”

 This black-and-white thinking is actually a symptom of depression. Also, it’s a symptom of anxiety as well as other mental illnesses. Black-and-white thinking evolved so that we focus, assess and think quickly in survival situations. When you’re feeling very depressed, your body is stressed, and thinks you’re in survival mode.

So, maybe that old urban legend about suicide slithers into your brain. Yeah, you know what I mean. You say, I have a right to feel depressed. Hey…everyone feels depressed around the holidays, in fact more people commit suicide during the holidays!

This is not true. In fact, research indicates that people feel more supported during the holidays as they can attend gatherings of family and friends. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be sad, but don’t catch a fever that doesn’t exist.

If you are feeling sad and alone, there are lots of things you can do.

Be kind to you, practice exquisite self-care.

Allow yourself the luxury of some sad feelings, it’s normal to be sad sometimes.

It’s normal that after some time, our moods change, and we feel better after a while.

Don’t judge yourself. Let the feelings come and let them go, let them change.

Don’t be ashamed of having sad feelings, just accept that all people are sad sometimes.

Call a friend.

Call your family.

Journal.

Find an online chat room for some help.

Read a book.

Take a walk.

Go to the gym.

Go to the yoga studio.

Go to a movie

Paint, collage, draw with media or with your computer.

Get professional help. It is a form of strength and self-care.

If you are truly alone on the holidays, volunteer at a shelter or a nursing home, you will be with people and you will be using your life in a positive way.

It’s okay to feel your feelings. It’s ok to feel bad sometimes. It is normal. If it goes on relentlessly for over two weeks, get help. Talk to a friend, call a counselor, use the health insurance for which you already pay.

If you are feeling very bad, if you are thinking of harming yourself, and you need immediate help. access a crisis line. Here are some phone numbers and websites to use in a crisis.

Drive to a nearby police station, or a nearby emergency room, where you can get emergency care. If you cannot help yourself, call 911, and emergency services will come to you.

 

You are Not Alone. You Are Not to Blame.

With Help, You Will Feel Better

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

 

Befrienders Worldwide

 

Suicide Crisis Line

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 

 

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16 Responses to “Urban Legend: Suicide Is More Frequent During the Holidays”

  • Thank you for writing this important post.

    The holiday is a time of big expectations and disappointments that can push us over the edge.
    Your list of things to do is excellent.

    “You are Not Alone. You Are Not to Blame. With Help, You Will Feel Better!” Is the kind of thinking that makes a difference. Thanks again!

    • I was a little fast with my comment. I agree with you that the holiday in it self is not creating depression! Just to make that point clear.
      I have myself been depressed and had to seek help. Therapy has been very helpful to me. My take on the holidays, is that they are what I make them. Living far away from my family is a challenge. Inviting friends and family over for Christmas has been very helpful for me.

      • BirthTouch:

        Hi Irene –
        thanks so much for your thoughtful reply! two in one day ! I am flattered! LOL!
        I hope you’re feeling better, and I’m glad you sought help.
        It must be difficult living far away from your family. I love Europe, and I always think what it would be like to live there.
        But then I think I’d be so far away from everyone I knew and from my immediate family. And that I think would be difficult.
        It sounds like you have a supportive and loving nuclear family.
        it’s not the same, but with Skype and all of our technology we can keep in touch with people more than we used to.
        I hope you’re feeling well, and have a blessed Christmas with family and friends.

        Merry Christmas! Love Kathy

    • BirthTouch:

      Hi Irene –
      Thanks for the comment !
      I do agree with you that the holidays are a time of big expectations and disappointments and that people do as individuals get depressed and feel loss around the holiday season.
      maybe I need to rewrite my post a little bit. I guess what I was trying to do was just counteract the urban legend that suicide increases around the holidays as it does not. It is at its height during the warmer months of the year. I was trying to encourage people to not be absorbed by the hype and to continue to practice self-care during the holidays.
      thanks, Kathy

  • Hi Kathy–

    I always get confused re: suicide and the holidays. I thought that most depressed people tend to feel a bit better, encouraged even that things may get better because it’s the holidays and others seem to care more?? Doesn’t suicide drop off around Christmas?

    I agree with Irene-holidays in and of themselves do not make the person depressed, the stress may exacerbate feelings of loneliness, of being away from loved ones, but the issues were present before Thanksgiving started.

    I don’t love the holidays, I admit. When I was really young, I did, but then familial stress made more of an appearance and my peer group fared much better than me in the gifts department, I felt embarrassed. Looking back I should’ve made more of the experience but when you’re a teen who’s insecure, going back to school in less than nice new duds, you feel cheated. Now I could go on and blame mom and dad for that, but I think a typical poor adolescent attitude was the culprit.

    Oh, we could go on forever about the emotionally-laden holidays, right? I enjoy them so much more now for the sake of my kid. It’s nice that he is surrounded by a lot of love, gifts he actually asked for (!), and a nice break from the rigors of elementary school.

    Happy Holidays Kathy–I have so enjoyed connecting with you and your big heart and wonderful clinical expertise in 2011 :).

    • BirthTouch:

      Hi Linda – Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply! Hmm, maybe I don’t have the post worded correctly.
      I think I’ll try to modify the post a bit to make it more clear. You are correct in that research shows that depressed people do feel better during the holidays and that suicide is not at its height during the holidays, but peaks in the warmer months.

      But in the popular culture, there seems to be an urban legend, a myth, that depression and suicide heighten during the holidays.
      I was trying to just let people know that it is an urban legend and that there are things you can do during the holidays to feel better, practice self-care, and not let yourself get caught up in the hype of a holiday or the mistaken belief that depression/loneliness/suicide heightened during the holidays. Sometimes people “catch” emotions from the media, and I sort of wanted to add a voice to help people cope.

      Hope this makes sense, baby I need to change the post!

      I love the holidays, but I don’t love all the money spending, and we are spending less this year. But I do love getting together with my family and friends. and I need to change the post a guy well
      it seems to be common sense that people would feel more alone during their holidays they contemplate their losses, but I was hoping to turn it around so people contemplate what they have.
      and by the way I loved your Santa post, and Christmas with the little one is so much fun!
      Merry Christmas 2011!

      thanks, Kathy

  • Hi Kathy,

    Thought I wanted to share an old post from last Holiday season “Secrets to a Happy Holiday Season” hope the link works: http://irenesavarese.com/blog/?p=1228
    Another one, also from last year is called “What if I hate Christmas”: http://irenesavarese.com/blog/?p=1282

    Hope you enjoy! I might post them again this year!

    • BirthTouch:

      Hi Irene – Thanks so much for the links about holiday season! You can also post them at susan giurleo’s website!
      take care, Kathy

  • Kathy,

    What I most appreciated about the post was the reminder that, even though suicide doesn’t increase, the holidays can be stressful, and that stress can exacerbate depression. I also appreciate the reminder that being depressed is not your fault and that you *can* take action to engage in self-care.

    Thanks,
    Ann

  • BirthTouch:

    Hi Ann – Thanks so much for the comments. Yes the holidays can be stressful, and we can all engage in self-care and take a step back and create our own celebrations,

    thanks, Kathy

  • Dawn:

    Kathy,
    I love the reminder to practice “exquisite self care,” which, even as a therapist myself, I am not always that good at! (I’m getting better… ) I’m experiencing the post-Xmas “let down” and need to remember self care. Nice post…thanks!
    Dawn

    • BirthTouch:

      Hi Dawn – Nice to connect with you here! Yes, us caregivers dont always care for oursleves.
      This week I took off, rather than work to accommodate my clts who are home. I am happy I did, as whole family is off this week. I didn’t take off this week last year and I went into January ( a very busy time of year for us, as you know) feeling very tired. So I feel I will better prepared for my work in 2012 with a nice break. !
      Happy New Year!

  • Kathy, this is a very good article on depression. My stepdaughter suffered from it, and was on medication, but even that did not prevent her from taking her own life. The holidays seemed to not be a time when she was depressed. In fact, she loved holiday time. With her, I don’t think there was anything we could have done. I have always felt her death was her way of trying to hurt her parents for not making her the center of their lives. She was always testing them to see if they loved her more than their spouses. As such, I and her stepfather had much trouble with her. My husband always said he’d get that telephone call, which he did in 2003.
    katlupe recently posted..Secluded But Not Far From TownMy Profile

    • Hello my friend – So sorry to hear of your family’s suffering. Your stepdaughter mattered to so many people, but yet I suppose in her own heart, for whatever reason, she did not feel like she did. So sad to live that way and so tragic for those left behind to wonder why and what could be done. It is such a mystery as to why some people are able to cope with what life gives them and others are overwhelmed and cannot. It is difficult to make sense of something that maybe doesn’t have a rational, orderly underlying reason. My heart goes out to you and your family, having to bear this burden. Take care, Kathy

  • Kathy,
    I like the topic of urban legends. So interesting how they come about. Wondering if the post-holiday period is also a depression trigger; an end to the celebrations, bills to pay, winter, back to work etc. Very good self-care advice and information on black-white thinking. All emotions have their usefulness and one is not better than another. Sadness can be a basis for insight and growth or a chance to withdraw and recover.

    • Hi Melanie – thanks so much for the supportive comments! I know, urban legends are like gossip. get a life of their own.
      I love that you mentioned that sadness can be a basis for insight & growth & a chance to heal wounds and move on, thanks, Kathy

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