Rise in suicides near holidays is a myth - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Rise in suicides near holidays is a myth

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Posted: Wednesday, December 24, 2003 8:30 am | Updated: 1:21 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

While Christmas is a depressing and stressful time to many, it is a myth that more people take their lives during the holiday season, mental health officials said.

Statistics show that most people commit suicide in the spring and fall, said Dr. Jack Potts, who specializes in forensic and general psychiatry. The theory is some people are more susceptible to changes in the amount of daylight.

People typically don’t commit suicide during the holiday season because they have stronger support networks then, Potts said.

"Families tend to be more loving," Potts said. "There is more of a sense of belonging during the holidays."

According to Maricopa County Forensic Science Center statistics, 158 people committed suicide in Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe between Jan. 1 and Dec. 16. August recorded the highest number of suicides with 26.

The myth that the suicides rise during the holidays is a long-standing one, said Dr. Michael Hitz, assistant medical director for Value Options, which operates a Valley crisis intervention line.

"It’s a recognition, in part, of how stressful the holidays are," Hitz said. "Most of us feel the stress of interacting with our families, buying gifts and planning trips. I think many people assume that if you’re prone to commit suicide you’ll be more likely to do it during the holidays."

There are things people can do to alleviate some of the stress, Hitz said.

"It’s important for people to identify their personal stressors and to plan ahead on ways to cope," Hitz said.

Avoiding alcohol and drugs is advisable, as is knowing where members of your support system are should you need to call them, Hitz said. In addition, people should realize ahead of time they can always go for a walk or leave the room if things get volatile.

"Just as our government recommends we have water

and a flashlight on hand in case of a national crisis, we need to have our own personal crisis plan," Hitz said.

Anyone who is feeling overwhelmed can call the Value Options crisis line at (602) 222-9444.

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