This editorial was published in The Cedar Rapids Gazette on Saturday, December 7th. You can read it below or online here.
It is a common but persistent myth that suicide rates increase over the holiday season. On the surface, this misconnection makes a lot of sense because the holidays can be a stressful time. There is pressure to do more and give more. People tend to eat more and sleep less. There are fewer hours of sunlight, increased social commitments and a general pressure to be jolly.
However, the holiday season is also a time of increased human connection, which is a protective factor against suicide.
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Network, “Positive and supportive social relationships and community connections can help buffer the effects of risk factors in people’s lives.” Promoting connectedness was added by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a strategic direction for preventing suicidal behavior in 2011. This includes feeling connected to individuals such as co-workers or friends, feeling connected to family, feeling connected to community organizations (such as church or school) and feeling connected to groups (such as cultural organizations).
The beauty of social connectedness is that it allows everyone to play a role in suicide prevention. There are simple steps you can take to save the life of someone in crisis including:
- Touching base with a friend or relative you haven’t spoken with recently.
- Asking “are you OK?” to someone posting about a difficult time on social media.
- Smiling and saying “hello” to a stranger.
Foundation 2 encourages you to save our crisis center number in your phone so that you have access to help when crisis strikes. Please take a moment to save “319-362-2174” in your phone now and share this number with others in your life.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one over the holiday season, understand that there is no “right” way to respond to grief during this time, but recognize and honor your loss. Take time to acknowledge that the holidays will be different and they may be tough, but you can work to create new traditions to honor those no longer with you.
If you have lost someone in your life to suicide, Foundation 2 offers support groups for both teens and adults. It is hard for anyone to really understand a loss from suicide, but talking with others who have been through the same experience can help you begin adjusting to your loss.
Last fiscal year Foundation 2 received 5,707 contacts from people with thoughts of suicide or concerned about someone who was suicidal. We received 35,989 calls to our crisis center, and responded to 5,417 crisis chat or text messages from those seeking emotional support.
Our mobile crisis outreach counselors responded to 2,437 dispatches in the community from those in need of immediate face-to-face crisis support and those numbers continue to increase. We are here to help, regardless of the time of year.
Everyone plays a role in suicide prevention, and your support can make all the difference to someone in crisis. For more information visit www.Foundation2.org/suicide.
Elisabeth Kissling of Marion, is marketing director at Foundation 2, chairs the Linn County Suicide Prevention Coalition and is an applied suicide intervention skills trainer.