Is it true that suicide rates spike in the new year?

Unfortunately, yes. In the past, it was commonly believed that suicide rates spiked at Christmas, but studies reveal that they drop during the holidays and then peak for the first few weeks of the new year.

Researchers surmise that, for those who are already struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, the Christmas promise of peace, goodwill, comfort and joy is likely to fade once the new year begins, and with it their hopes for a brighter day. Also, shifting from the warmth of holiday social interactions to individual efforts like new year’s resolutions may make vulnerable people feel overwhelmed – and alone.

If you know anyone who might be struggling in this way, here are some things to consider:

  • Stay in contact with him/her.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – e.g., How are you feeling? Are you considering harming yourself? Have you had thoughts like this before? Giving a person who’s feeling depressed and/or entertaining thoughts of suicide a chance to talk about it can be therapeutic so don’t be afraid to go there.
  • If the risk is serious, take them to Emergency or call 911.
  • You can encourage someone to get help, you can support their focusing on the things that make life worthwhile for them, and you can support them in accessing emergency services, but don’t assume it’s “your job” to save someone from taking his/her own life. Other than doing what you can and marshalling whatever resources are available, if a person makes the choice to end it all, there is little you can do to prevent it.

If the worst has happened and someone close to you has taken his/her life, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Losing someone to suicide is physically and psychologically traumatic, so don’t try to tough it out. Here are some possible avenues:

  • RCMP Victim Services. Most detachments have this service. They’re helpful to connect with immediately after the fact and some have ongoing grief support groups.
  • The Canadian Mental Health Association has bereavement programs in many centres.
  • Talk to an elder, pastor, teacher, counsellor whom you trust.
  • Reach out to your faith group. It can be a great source of comfort and many religious communities have grief support groups.
  • Find out if your local hospital has a grief support group.
  • Contact Family Services in your community.
  • If you live in the Vancouver area, get in touch with SAFER (Suicide Attempt Follow-Up, Education and Research). In addition to working in suicide prevention, they provide counselling to suicide survivors.
  • Call the crisis line in or near your community. The trained person on the other end of the line can provide you with immediate support and will also direct you to local resources.