For many, the holidays mean a time of celebration and gathering with friends and family. But for some, the season is filled with feelings of stress, sadness and loneliness.
The annual stresses of the holidays can be enough to push those struggling with mental health over the edge. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among Americans ages 10 to 34. It is the fourth leading cause of death among 35-44 year olds and the fifth leading cause of death among older adults. 45-55.
Stony Brook Medicine experts Suzy Marriott, MS, RN, PMH-BC, and Susan Wilner, LCSW, share mental health tips and tips to keep in mind as you head into the new year. Marriott is chairman of the Suicide Prevention Committee, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of patient care services at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital. Wilner is the Assistant Director of Behavioral Health Services Operations and an appointed member of the Suicide Postvention Committee.
Tips to keep in mind this holiday season:
- If you, someone close to you or someone you know is experiencing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress call or text 988 and have a confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24 hours a day at the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
- The holidays can bring up difficult memories or thoughts for many individuals. Stay connected to others by engaging in daily check-ins, even though they may seem okay.
- Be kind to yourself. Remember to engage in self-care activities to help reduce stress felt during the holidays.
- Be aware of human boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself or others emotionally, physically or financially.
- Remember that you never know what people are doing this time of year. Being kind to both people you know and strangers can really make a difference to them and to you!
What triggers suicidal thoughts?
The CDC reports an estimated 12.2 million American adults had serious thoughts of suicide in 2020. Some contributing factors include:
- Feelings of isolation or disconnection from others
- Loss of a loved one (especially in the last two years)
- Legal problems or previous criminal records
- Being abused
- relationship problems
- Financial stress or job loss
- Depression, anxiety or other emotional problems
- History of self-harm and/or previous suicide attempts
- Exposure to suicidal behavior
Who is most at risk?
Some people are more affected by suicide than others. These include:
- Veterans and other military personnel
- law enforcement
- health worker
- Farmers and Sailors
- People from construction, arts, design, entertainment, sports and media fields
- LGBTQ+ youth
- White males, 44 to 65 and 85 years and older
- Those with major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use and eating disorders.
Are there warning signs?
The CDC has identified 12 warning signs of suicide:
- Seems like a burden
- falling apart
- Anxiety increased
- Feeling trapped or excruciating pain
- Increased substance use
- Want to die talking or posting
- Plans suicide
- Looking for ways to access lethal means
- Anger or increased anger
- Extreme mood swings
- Expressing frustration
- Sleeping too little or too much
If you or someone you know is struggling, there are many resources out there. These include but are not limited to:
Speak with a Stony Brook suicide prevention specialist by calling (631) 632-9510 (adults) or (631) 632-8850 (children).
To learn more about dealing with the holiday blues, visit the Stony Brook Medicine website.