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Fact Vs. Myth
Mon December 23, 2013
Why George Bailey’s Suicide Attempt Is A Statistical Outlier
Portland and Spokane have been trying to prevent people from jumping off the cities' iconic bridges. In the last few weeks, police in both cities have responded to suicides or attempted suicides.
Many people believe the gloomy weather this time of year increases the suicide rate. But it turns out that’s just not true.
The media has done a lot to promote this particular myth. An annual survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center finds news stories repeat it year after year.
But according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate is, in fact, lowest in December.
“The true increase comes around in April and early summer,” said psychiatric nurse practitioner Ryan Townsend, who works in Washington State University's School of Nursing in Spokane.
Townsend says the gloomy weather can actually sap the energy of people thinking about carrying out plans to kill themselves. There's also the theory that spring represents a broken promise — the sun is out, but the person still doesn't feel better.
In contrast, Townsend says the holidays can be a comforting time.
“People are around their families. They're often out doing things because of the holidays,” Townsend said.
Townsend says the myth can actually be harmful if it keeps friends and family from looking for warning signs of suicide at other times of the year.
Oregon and Idaho are consistently among the states with the highest suicide rates.