The Christmas period, contrary to popular belief, can actually work as a protective factor for suicidal thoughts. We can collectively work together to prevent suicides in the new year through direct action of safety planning.

The resolution to safety plan in the New Year

Much of the public believes that there are increased suicide rates during the period leading up to Christmas, and potentially Christmas Eve and day. This myth continues to swirl around in the media and, as a result, extends to the mouths and minds of the public.

Why is it important to recognise and challenge this myth?

According to a study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC), 4 out of 5 adults think that more suicides occur in December.

The Samaritans’ informative, ‘Media Guidelines when Reporting on Suicide’, states “Research evidence shows that certain types of media depictions ­­­— sensational and excessive reporting — can lead to imitational suicidal behaviour among vulnerable people.”

As a result of this, sensationalised numbers surrounding high rates of suicide in December misinform young people about suicide, which could lead to potential ‘suicide contagion’.

Samaritans continues, “Young people are a particularly vulnerable audience about media coverage of suicide. They are more susceptible to imitational suicidal behaviour and more likely to be influenced by the media than other age groups.”

What does this mean for supporting young people through suicidal thoughts during the Christmas period into the New Year?

Challenging this widespread belief is not meant to negate that many people will feel unique financial pressure, grief, and other personal challenges throughout late December. Still, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in England and Wales, there is no direct link to higher rates of suicide in December.
CEO Caroline Harroe of Harmless, the centre of excellence for self-harm and suicide prevention, says, “The ONS data indicates in 2020, the suicide rate in December was 0.38 per 100,000 people, while the rate in January was 0.55 per 100,000 people. This pattern has been evident for several years.”

Reframe New Year resolutions

Reframing the expectations of New Year’s Day and the entire arrival of a new year could help people cope with suicidal thoughts. Collectively, we can acknowledge that while it would be a thrill to feel solace with the low hum of a treadmill or clink champagne flutes as drops of gold spill out with ease, it cannot, by any means, be an expectation.

We can, together, address that it is enough to work on safety from acting on plans of suicide for many people who cope with suicidal thoughts or supporting those who have suicidal thoughts.

How can HOPELINK247 help with safety planning in the New Year?

PAPYRUS’s helpline, HOPELINE247, offers a free and confidential service that allows anyone 35 and under across the UK, or anyone concerned about their loved one, to contact a suicide prevention adviser directly. With a trained adviser, callers can help create a personalised digital safety plan called a HOPELINK. A safety plan helps empower people with suicidal thoughts to acknowledge how the environment is helping or hindering safety, vocalising strengths, or simply opening dialogue around suicide.

What can we do in the new year as a community to help prevent young suicides?

As a community, we could plan to educate ourselves about suicide in the upcoming year. We could try to use sensitive language. We could ask someone we are concerned about openly and directly if they have thoughts of suicide. For others, it could mean listening or taking a free 20-minute suicide prevention training provided by Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA). Or if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, make a call to HOPELINE247 to work on safety. Suicide prevention is a collective effort, and we all play a role in saving young lives.

If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide and need a safe non-judgmental space to talk. PAPYRUS is here for you. Call HOPELINE247 for free, confidential advice and support on 0800 068 4141, text 88247 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
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