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No, suicide rates don't go up around the winter holidays

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

It’s a commonly-held belief that they happen most often in the winter, and Hollywood may be to blame.

THE QUESTION 

Do suicides actually go up over the holidays?

THE SOURCES 

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, suicides rates do not actually go up over the winter holidays.

WHAT WE FOUND

Research from the CDC and the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that the annual barrage of media stories warning of an uptick in the winter is just plain wrong.

"We looked at the data and realized, it's totally the opposite. We could see very clearly that the rates are much lower in November, December and January around the time of the holidays," said Romer.

There is no data that proves why that's the case, although experts generally believe, according to Romer, that it does seem to have something to do with the length of the day. 

"Because in the Southern hemisphere, the same thing happens. In July, they have lower suicide rates, because that's [their] winter," said Romer.

In the U.S., not only do suicides in fact peak in the spring and summer, paradoxically, they’re actually lowest during the winter months.  

“You know, I blame Jimmy Stewart,” joked Foreman.“'It's a Wonderful Life' is really a suicide prevention movie at its heart and we see it at Christmas. But sometimes we conflate compassion with the real patterns of behavior around suicide."

While holiday gloom is real, the presumption that it leads to more suicides is false, and misattributing the cause to the weather often ignores the real issues behind the attempt.

“It's important for us to recognize what might drive these deaths. The importance of reaching out and caring for people in pain or at risk, that's a protective behavior that we could be doing more at other months of the year," said Foreman.

We can verify, the common narrative that suicides peak in the winter is false. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800-273-TALK).

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