Depression and the Holidays- the Myth and Why It Matters

By Nancy Virden (c)2019

You have probably heard it. “Depression is most common in the holiday season.”  Or, “suicide rates are highest during the holidays.”

No, both statements are false. 

This may surprise you

From Psychology Today – 

For starters, there is solid evidence that — despite long-held beliefs and often erroneous media coverage — the suicide rate in the United States does not spike around the holidays. According to the U.S. Center for Health Statistics, the suicide rate is highest between April and August. The months of November, December, and January actually have the lowest daily suicide rates.*

It bears repeating: the U.S.A. holiday season has the lowest suicide rates.

The vital difference between this truth and fiction

Sure, stress is amplified due to extra responsibilities. This can help to bring out the worst in people. Anxiety and the blues may also increase between Thanksgiving and New Year’s due to obligations, missing loved ones, and loneliness. The most important difference to notice is that these issues are temporary, and resolve themselves as soon as the holidays are over.

Unlike the blues, depression, whether bipolar or major, does not resolve itself without help or at least can take a very long time. Major and bipolar depression prevent a person from functioning normally for weeks or more. Certain warning signs warrant seeking professional help.

Another surprise

There are no scientifically sound trials about depression problems during the holidays.  Data suggests that at this time of year people generally feel more warmth and happiness. 

What other time of year are you greeted by strangers with a wish for your happiness? When else do people focus on what you want? For some, this is the only time of year to see distant family members. More people engage in life-enhancing activities such as going to church, thinking about their blessings and serving others. 

Despite efforts by suicide prevention experts around the nation, the myth of holiday increases in depression and suicide rates prevails. 

Why it matters

Vulnerable persons are those already in despair or contemplating suicide. Anytime suicide is mentioned in a simplistic causal manner such as blaming the holidays, it can increase suicide risk for such people.  

It is almost like offering permission when suicide is attached to one cause. Veterans hear about suicide rates among other veterans and it is like an open door – he did it, it’s normal, I can do it too. The same goes for victims of bullying which is a common, although incorrect summation of why a young person dies by suicide.

Attributing any single cause to suicide perpetuates the idea that persons who die by (or attempt) suicide are weak in character. “He gave up.” “I’ve got the fortitude to overcome anything.” “She did it for the attention.”

Suicide and depression are complex mental, physical, and spiritual health issues.  Some of the bravest individuals one may meet are those who have experienced severe depression, suicidal thinking, or suicide attempts.   

Myths matter because of their potential to fuel such stigmas and more.  Among families, churches, and even the medical profession stigma increases the number one problem for those who are suffering: a lack of meaningful, nonjudgemental support. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Romans 12:15-16 (NLT)
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

 

Nancy Virden Seminar, May-2016
Photo Joe Boyle Photography

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair. 

*** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

*https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evidence-based-living/201712/what-we-know-about-the-holiday-blues. Para. 3. Retrieved on December 23, 2019 

For more information on how to talk about suicide:

The Annenberg Public Policy Center (www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/) was established in 1994 to educate the public and policy makers about the media’s role in advancing public understanding of political and health issues at the local, state and federal levels.  Follow APPC on Twitter (@APPCPenn) or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/appc.org). 

http://suicidepreventionmessaging.org/framework

The U.S. Surgeon General’s strategy for the prevention of suicide encourages more accurate reporting on the causes: http://www.samhsa.gov/prevention/suicide.aspx. 

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