Challenging Common Misconceptions About Suicides Over Christmas

By Caroline Harroe (Harmless CEO)

While there is a common perception of an increase in suicides during the Christmas holiday season in the UK, data from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) and real-time surveillance data suggest that this is not the case. Here’s a closer look at the data:

ONS Data
The ONS data indicates that December has consistently recorded lower suicide rates compared to January and other months throughout the year. For instance, 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.

Real-time Surveillance Data
Real-time surveillance data, such as that collected by the UK National Suicide Prevention Service’s (NSPS) SuicideWatch app, offers a dynamic view of suicide trends and can help identify potential spikes or fluctuations in suicide rates. While the app’s data cannot provide definitive conclusions on seasonal patterns, it does not support the notion of a Christmas suicide peak.

Why the Misconception Persists
The misconception that suicide rates increase over Christmas may be due to several factors:

  1. Media Coverage: Media reports often focus on suicides that occur during the holiday season, giving the impression that these events are more prevalent than they actually are.

  2. Anecdotal Evidence: Personal experiences and stories shared among friends and family can contribute to the perception of a Christmas suicide spike, even if these experiences are not statistically significant.

  3. Increased Stress and Loneliness: While suicide rates may not peak over Christmas, the holiday season can be a stressful and isolating time for many people, which can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.

Importance of Addressing Mental Health
It’s crucial to recognise that the holiday season can be a challenging time for many people, and it’s important to prioritise mental health throughout the year. Here are some additional resources available for help and support:

  • Samaritans: 116 123
  • Silverline: 0808 808 1677
  • Childline: 0800 1111
  • CALM: 0800 58 58 58

Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available.