BOISE, Idaho — While the holidays bring joy to many, they can be difficult for others. However, there are circulating reports surrounding suicide during the holidays, claiming that suicide rates rise between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rising suicide rates during the holidays are just a myth. In fact, the misinformation surrounding suicide and the holidays can actually hamper suicide prevention efforts.
While suicide remains a major public health issue, suicide rates are lower in December. Locally, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline (ISPH) also sees a drop in calls to the organization during the holiday season.
"We see a little less call volume around the holidays as well. I think because people have a lot of family gatherings, obligations, and plans. It's a really busy season for everyone. It's easy to get a sense of togetherness at social events. It's right after the holidays that our call volume goes up again," explains John Reusser, ISPH founding Director.
Reusser says calls tend to go up in January as people return to work or their normal schedules and their stress levels rise again. They could also be dealing with bills from the holiday shopping season or family problems during holiday gatherings.
Reusser says it's also easy to feel a little down during the holidays, especially with the rise of social apps.
"You know, we're aware that people can feel more lonely during the holidays. With social media now, you see people's holiday gatherings and think, 'wow, mine's not as good' or 'I don't have as many connections' so we're looking at that stuff, too."
To prepare for the anticipated rise in calls, ISPH is looking for volunteers for its upcoming Winter Volunteer Training Class on January 16. The organization is in the middle of recruiting and application process for the class and is always ready to add to the ranks.
Reusser says there are signs to look for this holiday season. The biggest signs that should prompt you to approach someone are a change in their normal pattern, behavior, mood or sleep, a change in appetite, engaging in high risk behaviors, or an increase in drug or alcohol use.
"It's to have that conversation with them, if you notice any of those warning signs. Don't be afraid to ask that question. Maybe preface it with 'I've noticed you seem down lately' or 'I've noticed that you aren't sleeping much.' Someone showing those signs might have thoughts of suicide," says Reusser.