The holiday season is ramping up, and while most people look forward to festivities with friends and family, for others this time of year can worsen stress, sadness and depression.
Some people have increased anxiety due to travel obligations, or the expenses of gift-giving. Others neglect self-care trying to make the holidays special for family or loved ones.
There is no evidence that the suicide rate spikes at Christmas, but suicides have dramatically increased in the U.S.. And Dennis Gillan, a mental-health and suicide-prevention advocate who lost two brothers to suicide, says each person needs coping mechanisms to help maintain their holiday equilibrium.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is now the 10th-leading cause of death nationwide, and the second-leading cause for people ages 15 to 34. Since 1999, Iowa’s suicide rate has increased by 21 percent.
Matt Wray, associate professor of sociology at Temple University, has studied why suicide rates are higher in the American West than other parts of the U.S.. He says people thrive on strong friendships and family relationships, and too much solitude at any time of year can bring on feelings of despair.
Mental health experts say for people who struggle during the holidays, this is not the time to cancel therapy sessions. And to reach the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).