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This Well-Known Suicide Stat Is Wrong – So Call Your Family and Friends After the Holidays

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We talk a lot about how tough the holidays can be for people who live with mental illnesses and other health conditions. But threaded within that important conversation is a false statistic that seems to pop up every year: that the number of suicides peaks during the holidays.

This well-known “fact” just isn’t true. In fact, the suicide rate is lowest in December and instead peaks in spring.

Why does this matter? 

It matters because while we may feel obligated to call or see Uncle Joe during the holidays, we might not reach out to him when he needs us most — which depending on his situation, could be all year long. We know that lack of connectedness is a risk factor for those who die by suicide — and although the holiday pressure can be tough for people who live with mental illnesses, that connection might be easier to come by.

To be clear, there isn’t a cause-and-effect between family and friends dropping out of touch during the spring and the suicide rate increasing.

While there still isn’t any conclusive evidence that explains the spring hike, some theories point to the weather (better weather gives you more energy, which actually makes you more likely to attempt), an increase in tree pollen (which is linked to an increased exacerbation of mood disturbance) or a person’s occupation (farmers, especially, see rising suicide rates in the spring).

Whatever the reason, what’s clear is that we need to spread support and good wishes well beyond the holidays and think about suicide prevention as something we should be championing all year long.

So please, don’t forget to check in on your friends and family members after the holidays — you never know when someone might need some extra support.

Here are some things you can do:

– Get involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

– Learn how to start the conversation at National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

– Volunteer at the Crisis Text Line.

— Check out Live Through This.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Originally published: December 20, 2016
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