Chelle Summer

The Holiday Myth Surrounding Suicide

Michelle Rusk

Every year it comes out some time after Thanksgiving: someone says– just assuming and without checking any data– that December is the month with the most suicides. 

And every year we have to dispel the myth because it's simply not true.

The reality is that December is typically one of the lowest months for suicide. According to researcher John McIntosh, Ph.D., and the Centers for Disease Control– where John pulls the data he uses for suicide statistics, the highest months for suicide have typically been in the spring. However, now what we're seeing, probably because we have much higher numbers of suicides than we did ten years ago, that it's those high months are extending through August, the warmest months of the year.

Why people- including the media and the person/s  on Facebook who are passing around one of those copy and pastes that says December is highest– believe it's December I don't know. We are typically more connected to people in December– whether we like it or not!– because of holiday and family gatherings. And it doesn't mean that there aren't any suicides in December, instead there are fewer.

My younger sister died in March 1993 and I can still remember the days after her death were miserable rainy and dark Midwestern spring days. But then after she was buried, the following day the sun came out and everything continued to green and blossom for spring. In the depths of her pain I'm sure that she couldn't face another spring, another renewal of life, just like all the other people who end their lives on a spring or day.

It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be aware of suicidal feelings at holiday time because many people do struggle. What it does mean is that we should be aware of making sure people have accurate statements to share in the media and social media. The holidays also are an opportunity to be there as supports for our loved ones with whom we might have more contact with than at other times of the year. And it means in the spring we should be more aware that people need more help coping with a spring they might not be ready to face. 

Suicide doesn't take breaks. We ultimately should be there for the people we care about no matter what time of year it is.