It’s a common urban myth that suicide rates spike at Christmas time. However, for some, it can be an isolating time of year. The lack of daylight and poor weather can have a dramatic effect on someone’s mental health. Add the stress of Christmas into the mix, the end of the year can be difficult for many of us.
Why do we feel lonely at Christmas time?
Christmas is often celebrated as a time to be around family and friends. Weeks’ worth of Christmas parties and dinners are seen as the mark of a thriving social life. And if we aren’t busy celebrating, we can feel left out or even unloved. Social media doesn't help in the least.
The phenomenon of FOMO (fearing of missing out) is rife during Christmas. Friends seem to be constantly posting photos of them at an amazing party you didn’t go to. The sinking feeling of “Why don’t I have a Christmas party to go to?” can be quite frankly overwhelming. Social media can be a great tool to help us make memories. However, it can often make us feel like we aren’t having enough fun.
This pressure in combination with poor mental health can leave many people feeling low at this time of year. The buzz of Christmas can be equally triggering. Busy shopping centres and the urgency to spend a lot of money at this time of year can leave many people feeling stressed and anxious. Unfortunately, it can be all too much for some.
Suicide at Christmas time
A recent study in the US found that suicide rates don’t actually go up around Christmas time. The National Post claimed that this also holds true for countries across Europe, including the UK and Austria. That isn’t to say we should ignore suicide during the festive period.
Although this may be a common myth, where there is smoke there is fire. The fact that many people do suffer from anxiety, depression and loneliness during the festive season demonstrates that we need to talk about mental health during Christmas.
The pressure to have the picture-perfect Christmas can be too much. One individual reached out to Mind, a mental health charity based in the UK, explaining that they felt like a ‘failure’ because they weren’t enjoying Christmas. They went to go on and explain that showing themselves the same kindness that they would to a friend at this time of year, to themselves, is what helped them cope with their suicidal thoughts. The anonymous individual stated “I’d say: “I’m sorry you’re struggling right now. Christmas can be such a hard time when you’re depressed” So why wasn’t I saying that to myself?’.
Coping with Christmas Blues
If you’re experiencing anxiety, stress, depression or suicidal thoughts during this time of year, being kind to yourself is a useful coping strategy. You do not need to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas or enjoy Christmas. Talk to yourself, as if you were a friend struggling with the same feelings during the festive period.
Remember to not skip on the self-care basics. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat well and try to get some exercise. Looking after yourself at Christmas time is just as important as it is at any other time of the year.
Mind have some useful resources if you want to seek any other help during Christmas.
The Samaritans have a 24-hour telephone helpline as well, which you can call at any time day or not. They also have a 24-hour email helpline if you would rather talk to someone via email.
Comment below if you found this article useful and let us know what we should talk about in 2020, we would love to hear your ideas!