The rise in suicides after the Christmas holidays

While the joy and festivities of the Christmas season often dominate our thoughts, it’s easy to overlook a sobering fact: January witnesses a substantial increase in reported suicides.
Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas period itself is not the peak for suicides, but rather the subsequent month, January, when these numbers surge.

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We will delve into the complex factors contributing to this trend by examining statistics and drawing meaningful conclusions. Our primary focus will be on providing practical tips to safeguard your financial and mental well-being during the holiday season, ensuring a smoother transition into the challenging month of January.

Let’s shed light on this critical issue and discover ways to make this period easier for those who need it most.

Christmas-related suicides: The stats

*NOTE* Death by suicide statistics can take months or even years to be officially registered.

While December typically marks the lowest period for suicide rates in any given year, it is in January that we begin to witness a notable and concerning increase in suicides. In the United States, the provisional statistics for the year 2023 reveal a significant 9% surge, amounting to 4,242 reported suicides in January, compared to the 3,890 cases recorded in January 2021. This alarming trend is not unique to the United States; the United Kingdom also exhibits similar patterns, with some of the highest suicide rates of 2022 occurring during the first quarter, specifically in January through March.

These statistics shed light on the complex relationship between the onset of a new year and its impact on mental health, underscoring the need for a better understanding of the underlying factors and support systems to address this issue.


Reasons why suicide rates rise during January

In this section, we’ll explore the factors that might contribute to the increase in suicides during the holiday season. It’s essential to remember that the reasons behind someone considering suicide can be deeply personal and complex. There’s no one-size-fits-all explanation, which is why we’ll focus on some of the potential reasons.

Post-holiday blues

The period immediately following the holiday season can be a challenging time for many people. Several studies have found that suicide rates suffer from a rebound effect after Christmas, potentially caused by a range of emotional and psychological challenges that arise as the festivities of the holiday season come to an end.

These issues could include:

  • Financial strains and debt
  • The change of routine
  • Returning to work
  • Going back to an isolated/lonely life
  • Not feeling rested after a busy Christmas period

Unfortunately, some of these problems could push people to the very edge.

A testing time for people in recovery

Studies conducted in Finland and Denmark have shed light on a concerning trend of increased alcohol-related deaths during the Christmas period. While this particular issue may not directly align with the surge in suicides observed in January, it serves as compelling evidence of excessive substance and alcohol abuse during the holiday season.

The allure of temptation during the Christmas season is not solely tied to alcohol. A study conducted in Spain revealed that not only is alcohol frequently misused during this time, but so is cocaine, underscoring how holiday celebrations can foster excessive drug consumption.

This period can undoubtedly present significant challenges for individuals who are in recovery or have formerly battled addiction. The heightened temptations they face during this time can be a real struggle, potentially acting as a catalyst for relapses and, regrettably, even contributing to higher suicide rates in the months that follow. It’s crucial that support, understanding and empathy are offered to those who are going through these tough times.

Financial strain

Financial stress during and after the Christmas season can significantly contribute to mental health challenges and, in some cases, even suicidal thoughts/actions. This stress can manifest in various ways and affect individuals and families differently.

One of the most common sources of financial stress during and after Christmas is debt accumulation. Many people resort to credit cards or loans to cover their holiday expenses, often resulting in high-interest debt that becomes burdensome and difficult to repay. The weight of this debt can lead to feelings of hopelessness and anxiety.

The constant preoccupation with financial concerns can give rise to a range of psychological issues, such as mental health issues and sleep disturbances. These conditions, in turn, can heighten the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions.

Isolation and loneliness

During Christmas, it’s essential to understand that many people experience isolation and loneliness for various reasons. Some individuals are separated from their families because of distance or financial constraints, making it impossible to come together during the holiday season. Others may be coping with the absence of loved ones, which can intensify feelings of solitude. Additionally, for those dealing with social anxiety or depression, participating in festive gatherings can be incredibly challenging. It’s important to recognise that these emotions, sadly, could contribute to an increase in suicide rates during this time.

Taking care of yourself during Christmas

Taking care of yourself during the holiday season is not only essential for mental health but also for encouraging a healthier and happier atmosphere for all. Here, we take a closer look at the strategies and practices that can help you navigate the holiday season.

Self-care and stress management

Christmas often brings a time of happiness and relaxation, but for many, it can bring the polar opposite. If you find yourself experiencing the latter emotions during the Christmas period, it’s essential to ensure you take the time to practise self-care and stress management.

  • Explore self-care activities: Self-care is a highly personal journey, and it can take various forms depending on what makes you feel best. It may involve setting healthy boundaries to protect your time and energy, taking moments for relaxation and self-reflection, engaging in activities that bring you happiness, or simply ensuring you get the rest you need.
  • Stress Management: Stress management is crucial during this time. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness and light physical activities can work wonders in helping you cope with the added stress and demands that often come with the holiday season. These techniques can bring a sense of calm and balance to your life.
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also key to managing stress. Eating well, staying physically active and avoiding excessive alcohol or substance use can have a positive impact on your mental well-being. Remember, your physical and mental health are closely connected, and taking care of one can positively influence the other.

Try your best to utilise the community spirit during Christmas

During the Christmas season, it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there’s a warm and welcoming community spirit waiting to embrace you. Being around the right people can truly make all the difference, turning what might otherwise be a lonely holiday into a time filled with the warmth of togetherness.

  • Connect with others: If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends and family. It’s amazing how a simple conversation can brighten your day and theirs. Building connections and nurturing existing relationships can be a balm for the soul during these times when it’s needed the most.
  • Volunteer and give back: Sometimes, the most fulfilling way to experience the true spirit of Christmas is by giving. Consider engaging in acts of kindness, like volunteering your time or helping those in need. This not only provides you with a profound sense of purpose and belonging but also allows you to connect with your community on a deeper level. There’s no greater joy than knowing you’ve made a positive impact in someone else’s life.
  • Create meaningful traditions: Instead of focusing solely on materialism, consider creating traditions that revolve around the joy of giving and sharing. These traditions can be simple yet meaningful, like baking cookies with neighbours or hosting a gift exchange emphasising the thought and love behind the presents, not their price tags. These acts of togetherness can fill your holiday season with the kind of warmth and purpose that makes Christmas truly special.

Spending within your means

The holiday season can be a joyful time, but it often comes with increased financial pressures. To ensure you don’t overspend and find yourself in financial stress, consider these practical tips for spending within your means during the Christmas period:

  • Set a budget: It’s a heartfelt act of self-care to create a detailed budget that covers all your holiday expenses, from gifts to decorations, travel, and food. Sticking to this budget is like giving yourself the gift of financial peace, ensuring you won’t fall into the trap of impulsive spending.
  • Set limits on parties and entertaining: Hosting Christmas parties and gatherings is a wonderful tradition, but it can also be a costly one. Show your kindness to yourself by setting a budget for food and drinks, and then stick to it. If you’re worried about the expenses, remember that your loved ones may be more than willing to contribute by bringing extra food or drinks to the party, which can help reduce the overall cost. Sharing the joy is what this season is all about.
  • Avoid credit card debt: While credit cards can provide convenience, they also come with the risk of overspending if not managed thoughtfully. When using credit, do so with mindfulness. Ensure that you can pay off the balance in full to avoid high interest charges. Remember not to let the credit card debt linger into January, preserving your financial and mental well-being.

Final thoughts

As we embrace the joy of the Christmas season, it’s crucial to remember that January can bring forth a challenging transition. The statistics showcased today reveal a notable increase in suicides during this month, underscoring the need for awareness and support.

If you or someone you know is struggling during this time, please remember you’re not alone. It’s okay to seek help, and you don’t have to face these difficulties alone. If you feel that the tips given in this article today aren’t enough for you, please contact UKAT for further guidance.

Our team of dedicated mental health professionals is just a phone call or click away at all times. We’re here with open hearts and a listening ear to guide you towards a life of happiness and full recovery. Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available to navigate the challenges of depression and other mental health conditions. Together, we can embrace a brighter, healthier future.

(Click here to see works cited)