Coping with the new year blues this Christmas

December 20, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Chair of Mental Health at the University of South Australia, Professor Nicholas Procter, says Christmas is a special opportunity for family and friends to re-connect with people - some of who have mental health problems and mental illness, as a means of building resilience to self harm in the New Year.

Professor Procter says there is a common misconception increase at Christmas but research indicates it’s in fact early in the where people are more susceptible to and likely to end their life by suicide.

“The evidence suggests that at Christmas relatives and friends are more likely to visit and reach out so often the family becomes a bigger part of one’s life at this time,” he says. “Social and family connectedness is a known protective factor for suicide.”

“Positive efforts of church and charity groups to provide support, special dinners, free presents for children and other social events such as Christmas carols in public places are an effective buffer in helping to alleviate deep social isolation that may be experienced around Christmas.

Professor Procter says self harm and suicide is more likely to take place in the New Year but more study is required as to why this is the case.

“International evidence indicates there are fewer suicide attempts than expected before Christmas and nearly 40 per cent more than expected after, especially on New Year's Day,” he says.

“We can really only draw some inferences on this and the possibilities include some kind of postponement mechanism arising after the Christmas and New Year period, where motivation and opportunity is high at a time of decreased social connectedness.

“Further research is needed to understand the complex interplay between psychosocial and individual factors, as well as known risk factors for suicide.

Although fewer people may self harm at Christmas, Professor Procter says despite the protective barrier provided at Christmas time there will still be many who will exhibit self-harm and suicidal behaviour.

“There is always the group of people, albeit smaller in number who, for a range of complex reasons, have such a strong intent to die that the /New Year holiday is not significant enough in itself to act as a protective factor,” he says.

“For this group the desire to end their life by suicide is so powerful, they believe that completing the act means they will no longer be a burden to themselves, their family or others.”

If you are concerned for the of a friend or family member Professor Procter suggests:

• Reach out to people who you know are isolated and vulnerable.
• Let them know you care and that they are important to you.
• Try starting a conversation with the person, telling them you are concerned.
• Help them come around to the idea that while many people can feel this way when faced with a crisis, there are options and their safety is most important.
• A ‘no secrets’ policy is critical, never agree to keep someone’s suicidal thoughts a secret.

To get a better understanding of the person’s risk you could ask the following questions:

What: do you have a suicide plan?

How: Do you have access to the means to end your life?

When: Have you set aside a time to complete suicide?

The above tips have been adapted from livingisforeveryone.com.au

Related Stories

The influence of the internet on suicidal behavior

October 10, 2011

A recent study by the University of Otago, Wellington into internet pro-suicide and support sites indicates that significant improvements need to be made in this area to help prevent suicidal behavior.

New guidance for management of self-harm issued

November 24, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- The healthcare guidance body NICE has today published a new clinical guideline on the longer-term care of adults, children and young people who self-harm. The guideline development group was chaired by ...

Recommended for you

Neural efficiency hypothesis confirmed

July 27, 2015

One of the big questions intelligence researchers grapple with is just how differences in intelligence are reflected in the human brain. Researchers at ETH Zurich have succeeded in studying further details relating to suspected ...

How does color blindness affect color preferences?

July 21, 2015

(Medical Xpress)—Dichromacy is a color vision defect in which one of the three types of cone photoreceptors is missing. The condition is hereditary and sex-linked, mostly affecting males. Although researchers have explored ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.