News

Holiday blues and the suicide myth

By KYRA LOW, The Mirror

It’s a dark myth — a common misconception that the holidays lead to an increase in suicide rates.

It’s in the media, and it’s even the theme of the popular Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

And it’s not true.

What is true is that there are no increases in the suicide levels during the holidays. In fact, according to Donald Kuch, clinical director for King County Crisis Clinic, the only time there is an increase in suicide levels is during the spring, and even then, it’s very slight.

This isn’t to say the holidays aren’t a stressful time for many. The “holiday blues” are often caused by pressures of the season. The pressure for the perfect family gathering, financial pressures for providing gifts, and the fact that this time of year is grayer and rainier, can all add stress and cause moments of panic or depression.

Major depression, though, is different.

“Almost everyone, even those who really enjoy the holidays, can understand melancholy or a slowing down for the winter, and it makes people wonder what that would do to someone who is depressed,” Kuch said. “It’s a common myth about suicide, that people think if they mention it to a suicidal person or even just the season might push them over the edge. It’s a big decision though, and if someone is actually contemplating killing themselves, then they have put a lot of thought into it. If a person is depressed, it is about bigger things.”

Many feel the social expectations of maintaining an image of a happy family during the holidays. For many, the reality may not match those expectations, which can lead to feeling depressed or ostracized, Kuch said.

These feelings often pass with the season, he said. True depression doesn’t have a seasonal pattern and is associated with suicide.

Depression is quite treatable, with a vast array of medications available, Kuch said.

Kuch notes that it may take a while to find the right prescription for the individual, and all medication should be taken with some sort of therapy.

Contact writer: klow@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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Fast facts on suicide

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among Americans.

Over 31,000 people kill themselves each year.

Approximately 325,000 to 425,000 people with self-inflicted injuries are treated in emergency departments each year.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, in 2004, Washington state ranked 18th with 830 deaths attributed to suicides with gave a rate of 13.4. Alaska, which was number one, had 155 deaths and a rating of 23.6.

Males take their own lives at nearly four times the rate of females and represent 78.8 percent of all U.S. suicides. However, women attempt suicide about two to three times as often as men.

In men, adults ages 75 years and older have the highest rate of suicide while in women, those in their 40s and 50s have the highest rate.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

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