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 between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.” Both statements are false. In the U.S.A. and probably elsewhere, these months have the lowest suicide rates!

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.”

The vital difference between this truth and fiction

Sure, anxiety and the blues may increase for some people between Thanksgiving and New Year’s due to more obligations, missing loved ones, and unmet expectations. The most important difference to notice is that these emotions are temporarily heightened and tend to resolve themselves as soon as the holidays are over.

Unlike the blues, a true depressive episode does not resolve itself without help or at least can take a very long time. Severe depression, the precursor to most suicides, can prevent a person from functioning normally for weeks or months. Certain warning signs warrant seeking professional help.

Another surprise

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

Is that actually a surprise? What other time of year are you greeted by strangers with a wish for your happiness? When else do people focus on giving? 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. 

Why it matters

Despite efforts by suicide prevention experts around the nation to decry it, the myth prevails. They care about this issue because anytime a simplistic cause for suicide is suggested, it can increase suicide risk for vulnerable people.  It is almost like offering permission. For example, veterans with suicidal thoughts learn about suicide death rates among other veterans and it is like an open door – he did it, it’s normal for soldiers, I can do it too. This concept helps to explain copycat suicides.

Attributing any single cause for suicide also perpetuates the idea that suicide (and therefore depression) are themselves simplistic and easy for people of strong character to overcome or avoid altogether. We hear, “He (or she) gave up but I’ve got the fortitude to overcome anything.” One of the most ignorant stigmas is, “If he (or she) were serious they would have died.” On the contrary, some of the bravest individuals one may meet are those who battle severe depression and suicidal thoughts despite the many pressures and complexities those painful experiences entail.

Myths ultimately matter because among families, churches, and even the medical profession stigma exacerbates the number one misery for those who are suffering – the lack of meaningful, nonjudgemental support.  -COMMENTS WELCOME

Today’s Helpful Word

Romans 12: 15, 16
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

How the Difference Maker Lifts You Above Depressive Thoughts (c)2020

Stay at Home and Thrive! (c)2020

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!

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. NOTE: Nancy is not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speaks only from personal experience and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

HOLY BIBLE, NEW LIVING TRANSLATION, COPYRIGHT © 1996, 2004, 2015 BY TYNDALE HOUSE FOUNDATION. USED BY PERMISSION OF TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC., CAROL STREAM, ILLINOIS 60188, PER BIBLE GATEWAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. RETRIEVED FROM HTTPS://WWW.BIBLEGATEWAY.COM/

*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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