The holiday season is usually seen as a time of great joy and merriment. Christmas, in particular, is when folks try to get together with family and friends in festive spirits. Based on this, amidst all-around celebration and optimism, something somber and tragic is often linked to Christmas – suicides.
Many people believe that Christmas is a time when the risk of suicide reaches its peak. The correlation drawn between suicides and the holiday season is decades old. But is there any grain of truth in all this?
The bio-hazard cleaning experts at Bio-One Savannah are highly sensitive to the immense tragedy of suicide and other forms of unnatural death. In a time of intense grief, we offer top professional and compassionate cleaning services to the family or property owners after a suicide has occurred.
In this blog post, we will explore the facts behind the holiday suicide claims – is it real or just a myth? Let’s start with some basic facts about suicide in the US:
Incidence of Suicides in the United States
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2021 alone, there were close to 48,180 deaths by suicide – over 130 people were found dead. Almost twice as many people are killed by suicide than homicides across the US.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. If we look at suicide attempts, there are only rough estimates. Considering the fact that not every attempt at self-inflicted harm results in a death or visit to the hospital ER, we may never know the true picture.
Nonetheless, reports and predictions from experts indicate that there are at least 1.2 million suicide attempts each year in the US. For every death by suicide, there are at least 25 unsuccessful attempts at taking own life. Each day across the country, a suicide attempt takes place once every 26 seconds on average.
Nationwide Historical Trends in Suicides
We have high-quality historical data about suicide attempts dating back at least to the 1950s. What we've seen over the decades paints a startling picture – after hitting a low in 2000, suicide rates have increased by as much as 30% in the last two decades.
Beginning with a high rate of 13.2 in the post-World War II era in 1950, the suicide rates saw a progressive decline to 10.4 per 100,000 people by the year 2000. Much of that positive change has been attributed to advances in mental health treatments and a steady improvement in economic conditions.
In relation to this, ever since the beginning of the 21st century, things have gone downhill in terms of cases of depression and suicide. By 2018, the suicide rates nationally had exceeded the 1950 levels to reach an all-time high of 14.2 per 100,000 population. There was a temporary dip in those figures during the early stages of the pandemic, reaching 13.48 in 2020.
Since then, the numbers have once again bounced back sharply, and suicide rates reached a new record of 16.1 suicides per 100,000 population. Suicide prevention has been rightfully termed as vital for public health and welfare.
Differences in Suicide Rates Among Various Groups
Suicide risk is not evenly distributed across the entire population. For instance, the rates are extremely low among young children below the age of 10. Moreover, based on demographic factors like race, gender, and age, suicide risks can vary to a great degree.
Men vs. Women
The difference in suicide rates here is quite staggering. Men are up to 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women in the United States. This gap has remained more or less constant since at least the 1950s.
Among men, the risk is higher as they age. The rate is around 28.3 between the ages 25-44 and 27.4 between 45-64. But the highest risk comes after the age of 75 for men – the suicide rate is a whopping 40.5 per 100,000 population.
Among women, the peak risk comes after the age of 45. The suicide rate for females is 7.2 between the ages 25-44, and it reaches a peak of 7.9 between ages 45-64. The risk falls off considerably after the age of 65 in women. In 2023, the age-adjusted suicide rate was 25 for men and 7.5 for women in the United States.
There are significant differences in the chosen suicide methods as well. Men prefer using a gun (57.9%), followed by suffocation (26.7%). Among women, the primary means of suicide are firearms (33%), suffocation (29%), and poisoning (28.6%).
Race and Ethnic Groups
In absolute numbers, the majority of suicides involve middle-aged white men. Going by percentage rate among the population, Native Americans had the highest rate of 37.4 per 100,000, followed by white males at 27 per 100,000.
African American, Asian, and Hispanic populations had the lowest rates of 12.9, 10.3, and 12.3, respectively, per 100,000. The rates for women are largely similar, with Native American and White populations showing higher rates of suicide than others.
The following are the broad rates per 100,000 for each age group, including both men and women at present:
- For ages 10 – 14 the rate was 2.0 for women and 3.6 for men
- For ages 15 – 24 the rate was 5.8 for women and 22.4 for men
- For ages 25 – 44 the rate was 7.2 for women and 28.3 for men
- For ages 45 – 64 the rate was 7.9 for women and 27.4 for men
- For ages 65 – 74 the rate was 5.6 for women and 24.7 for men
- For ages 75+ the rate was 3.9 for women and 40.5 for men
Teenagers tend to have lower suicide rates than adults, contrary to many news reports and popular perceptions. The rates are much higher for young adults and senior citizens. But the youth are nevertheless at risk of suicide attempts, with 8.9% reporting an attempt in 2019.
Suicide Across the World – How Does the US Compare?
According to WHO figures, the global death toll from suicide each year is around 700 million. It was also the fourth leading cause of death among adolescents/young adults between 15 and 29 years of age in 2019.
Over 77% of all suicides take place in lower-income countries, with pesticide ingestion a very popular option in countries where firearms are not readily available. The US does not rank among the top 25 nations in terms of age-adjusted suicide rates. Here are the top 5 nations:
- Guyana - 44.2
- North Korea – 38.5
- South Korea – 28.9
- Sri Lanka – 28.8
- Lithuania – 28.2
The actual reasons for suicide are quite varied and complex. Mental disorders, stress (particularly due to a sudden onset of crisis), depression, and alcohol abuse, are all major factors. Financial issues, relationship crises, loss of a partner, father, or mother, and chronic pain or illness are all common stressors.
Discriminated minorities, such as indigenous people and members of the LGBTQ community, are at higher risk of death by suicide. Natural disasters, conflicts, and forms of violence can also push people toward suicide attempts.
Suicide Trends in Georgia
Suicide rates are not evenly distributed across different states in the country. Alaska and the Western and Northwestern states have higher rates, particularly in the rural areas. California is a notable exception, with generally lower rates.
As for the state of Georgia, it sits 31st on the table of states with the highest incidence of suicides in the United States. The age-adjusted rate in the state is higher than in other states in the South.
Suicide also ranks as the second leading cause of death among youth in Georgia. Savannah falls under Chatham County in Region 5, which reported the highest rate of suicides among teens in 2019, according to official figures from Atlanta police.
If you have faced the trauma of suicide on your property or family home in Savannah, GA, Bio-One Savannah is prepared to offer you quick, reliable, and compassionate service. Our team of certified experts is equipped with high-tech resources. We are available 24/7 to handle the cleaning and disinfection of all contaminated surfaces in accordance with both state and federal laws.
Be it the cleanup of homes, vehicles, or commercial property, our specialists are trained to address all conditions. We are dedicated to handling your unique needs with utmost care and caution under the latest OSHA guidelines for maximum safety. To request our suicide cleanup services, give us a call at 912-755-1211, or use the contact us form here
Christmas and Suicide Numbers – Myth or Reality?
The supposed link between Christmas and suicides is a myth that is not backed by any factual observations or real-world data. The fact is that the rate of suicides does not increase during the holidays. Let us look at some of the reasons to debunk the myth of higher suicide rates during the Christmas and holiday seasons.
The Holidays Act as a Buffer
Contrary to popular belief, the holidays do not make people feel more miserable and increase the chance of a suicide attempt. In reality, the opposite is true – all the positivity and merriment act as a buffer against depression and suicidal thoughts in many individuals.
As long as they are not isolated and cooped up in their rooms, they can attend social events. partying and dancing during Christmas and other winter holidays keep people distracted from their suicidal impulses. Social gatherings provide excellent support against suicidality.
Suicides are More Common in Spring and Summer
Taking your own life is not an easy task. It takes a lot of energy (both mental and physical) to successfully carry out the act. This is why most suicides happen in the warmer months and not in winter.
In regions with cold and darker winters, the human body has less energy to spare. We end up more lethargic in order to conserve body heat. The same phenomenon is also responsible for significantly reducing the rate of suicides during the holiday season.
Suicidal Impulse is Often Driven by Internal Factors
The urge to end your life is a highly complex feeling which is usually driven by a wide range of psychological factors. Mental illness, depression, anxiety, and stress can all play a part. A unique set of factors drives each individual.
While it may sound convenient to attribute many suicides to a single universal cause, that would be a gross oversimplification of things. Sure, people do end up feeling suicidal around this time – but it is often rooted in very negative personal experiences from the past, not just a general aversion to the holiday season.
But in other instances, it can also be inspired by external stimuli – when a person sees news of suicides involving an actress or other celebrities, it can trigger impulses that lead to “copycat suicides.” This is a reason why we have journalistic rules and standards when covering suicides in the media - for the sake of suicide prevention.
The Origins of the Christmas Suicides Myth
Nobody knows for sure when the myth of high suicide rates at Christmas first started. Some experts attribute at least part of the blame to movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where the lead character contemplates suicide during the holidays.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is commonly cited as another reason to back the claim. A form of depression triggered by changes in the season can happen at any time of the year, not just during winter. The condition is also linked to bipolar disorder, which also increases the risk of suicide.
Journalists and news media have also played a key role in at least perpetuating the myth, if not actually creating it. Despite the availability of data that debunks the claim, many journalists fail to do due diligence before publishing articles on the trend.
What is the “January Rebound”?
While we can say with confidence that Christmas suicides are indeed a myth, there is another aspect to it worth considering. Christmas and social interaction can act as a buffer against suicidal urges during December.
But once we pass the holiday season and enter January, those same suppressed urges and depressive traits can often come back with a vengeance. Over the decades, researchers have noticed a decline in suicides in December, followed by an uptick in rates during January, a phenomenon called the “January rebound.”
Help First, Business Second – The Bio-One Savannah Approach
Suicides can be incredibly traumatic situations, whether it happens in your family or if it involves a complete stranger found inside your vehicle or on your property. Depending on the method used, a suicide can leave significant biological contamination in and around the surroundings.
Suicide scene clean-up is not something anyone can or should do as a DIY project. For community health and safety reasons, there are strict laws at both the state and federal levels on the handling and disposal of human remains and bio-waste.
If you are based in Savannah, GA, or nearby areas, you can rely on Bio-One Savannah for fast, compassionate, and discreet cleanup services. Our industry-leading experts are fully certified, trained, and experienced in handling and disposing of biological contaminants resulting from suicide.
If you wish to request Savannah suicide cleanup services at any time of the day, Bio-One is here to help you round the clock on all days of the week. Give us a call at 912-755-1211, or book an appointment online today using this link.