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Holiday Blues: Friends and Family Can Help Save A Life

December 29, 2008

It's called the "holiday blues"--a letdown feeling that can set in when the presents are all opened and the festivities have quieted down. For some people, these blues can lead to serious depression, even suicide, according to mental health experts who are trying to explain why three people jumped to their death from Tampa Bay's Sunshine Skyway Bridge this month alone. While studies show the overall number of suicides is lower in winter months, the number of attempted suicides is higher, especially after holidays.

Jim Akin, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers in Florida, says the holidays can be hard for many people.

"It brings back memories of happy times. But if those happy times are not there, or if people bring sad memories back, then abusing drugs or alcohol is more prevalent during the holidays."

More than 30,000 people nationwide took their own lives last year, Akin says, making suicide the 11th leading cause of death. People under 24 and over 65 are most likely to take their own life, he explains, and 90 percent of them have risk factors including depression, mental illness or substance abuse; others suffer stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job or break-up of a relationship. In this economy, he says, there may be more triggers, but family and friends can make a difference.

"Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme stress. What you want to do is stay with them, listen to them and get professional help."

According to Akin, many people do not seek treatment for depression or other mental illnesses because of the perceived stigma, but he says treatment could save a life.

"If you broke your arm, you wouldn't walk around with your arm hanging loose. And if you are feeling stressed out and depressed or if you are abusing, you should get some help. All of this is preventable--getting people good mental health services is the key."

The Suicide Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK, and information is available online at

Gina Presson/Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL