| Peter Cook
(When Christmas is not a happy time of year - suicide awareness)
The ‘holiday blues.’
It is called the 'holiday blues.' Some people feel lonelier over Christmas. Those who are grieving are grieving deeper.
No one really knows what brings it on. Is it the stress of the holidays? Or is it a real tragedy such as an illness, an end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one?
Expectations vs. reality
It is all in the Christmas ads: ‘This is what your holiday should look like.’ ‘This is how you should feel.’ ‘This is how your family should act.’
These idealized 'images' do not always align with the real thing. No wonder people are feeling the blues. Not everyone can afford barrels full of Christmas presents or to have their extended family around them over Christmas.
It is a vicious circle: you feel bad because you are not happy, and then you feel ashamed. Who isn’t glad over Christmas?
- You blame yourself. ‘Why am I always alone on Christmas?’
- You attack the holiday. ‘I hate Christmas!’
- You withdraw: You decline all invitations and don’t answer calls from family or friends.
- You avoid how you feel and over-indulge.
The suicide myth
Did you know?
Yes, holiday blues are real, but they do not necessarily lead to an increased suicide rate over the Christmas period. In fact, historically, suicide rates are lower during December and over other holiday periods.
Experts ascribe this to the fact that friends and family surround most people during this time. News stories about suicides over the holidays are usually skewed and are based on incorrect conclusions.
The real risk lies after the festivities, a few days, or even months later.
It is not to say suicide will never happen over the Christmas period. Of course, it can. You can support your loved one by:
- Encouraging him/her to live for the moment. Enjoy the warmth of a fire, or of being together as a family. Do not set standards for the holiday season that are impossible to achieve. Remember, what you see on social media is not real life.
- Don’t let him/her stop seeing a mental health care practitioner over the holiday period. Talking to someone outside of the immediate family circle can help to keep depressive symptoms at bay.
- Don’t say ‘no’ to everything. Sure, if he/she doesn't feel up to the office party, don't go. But, advise your loved one to be kind to himself. A lunch with a good friend might just be what he needs.
If Christmas does not feel ‘merry’ to you
If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or if Christmas isn't just that merry for you, think about having a safety plan in place.
A safety plan
Your plan can include who you are going to call when you are feeling low. Whether it is your psychologist or a hospital, keep the number handy.
What family member or friend can you ask for assistance? Decide beforehand. If you’ve got a plan in place, you’ll be more equipped to handle what life throws at you this Christmas season.
A listening ear at Largest Heart
At Largest Heart, it is our mission to support and to spread love. We also want to help. Please see our list listed on our site as well as other resources for help. If you need immediate help please dial 911 or call 1-800-273-HELP (8255)