The holidays: Real danger or urban legend?

First, let me say that this is not the blog post I was intending to write! I was going to write about the increase in suicides around this time of year and what we can do to help lower those numbers. Before going full throttle, I wanted to do some research. Statistics are helpful, a lot of the time.

Interestingly, the research seems to say that I was about to support an urban legend. Several sources reported that while seasonal anxiety disorder may flare up during the Winter months, suicides nationally and internationally actually drop during the holiday season. One article I found even said that this myth was born after worldwide audiences saw the Jimmy Stewart suicide attempt in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

In the small sphere of my personal existence, I know of 1 person (a friend of a friend) who took their own life during this time of year. I would hesitate to say that the idea that holidays are hard for people just dates back to a movie, however. Maybe we are asking the wrong questions.

In the research I did, it seemed like experts on mental health agree that suicides increase during the Spring, when the holidays are over. Why might this be? Maybe during the holidays we are more aware of how we act, who we talk to, what we do. Maybe we give a dollar or a sandwich to a homeless person whom we might completely ignore in April. Maybe we look after a quiet friend around the holidays but don’t talk to him or her much for the rest of the year. Maybe we build peoples’ expectations a lot during the holidays, and a wounded person finds the post-holiday letdown unbearable.

So what can we do to help people who find the holidays hard, and more to the point, how can we prevent someone from feeling really lonely and lost after the holidays are over? What could we in the Social Media realm do to address these issues?

I’d love your input here, and we’ll also continue the conversation tomorrow night in our #SMSafety Chat at 9 PM EST on Twitter.



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