There’s a commonly held belief that suicides peak during the holidays. That is not true.

Suicide Prevention Ribbon

From the CDC— “The idea that suicides occur more frequently during the holiday season is a long perpetuated myth. The Annenberg Public Policy Center has been tracking media reports on suicide since 2000. A recent analysis found that 50% of articles written during the 2009–2010 holiday season perpetuated the myth. CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reports that the suicide rate is, in fact, the lowest in December. The rate peaks in the spring and the fall. This pattern has not changed in recent years. …Suicide remains a major public health problem, one that occurs throughout the year. It is the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans. Each year, more than 36,000 people take their own lives. In addition, more than 374,000 are treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries.”

The good news take-away— this time of year is when suicides are lowest.

Let’s consider the possibility that it’s not a coincidence that suicides are reduced when —

  • people are most likely to share smiles and good wishes, even to strangers;
  • people are most charitable, both financially and with their time and energy;
  • people are most likely to get together;
  • people in need are most likely to be thought about and shared with.

The bad news take-away— 36,000 people take their own lives every year in this country.

It’s nice that you just felt sad about that huge number. Now, what can you do about it?

Look again at the list in the preceding paragraph.

You can take the time to smile at strangers, to wish them well; ask questions, listen to answers; give generously, of time and energy; make and take opportunities for people to get together; look around your community and see what kinds of support, participation, and support are needed.

Here are some resources to get you started. If you need help—

800-273-8255 Suicide Hotline

800-633-3239 National Drug Helpline

855.972.0310 Eating Disorder Hotline

800-334-HELP (4357) Self Injury Foundation Crisis Line

800-799-SAFE (7233) Domestic Violence Hotline

877-332-7333 Real Help for Teens Help Line:

800-656-4673 Rape and Sexual Assault Hotline.

If you want to give help— (a national organization with a local operation through Julie Shay in Severna Park) (an animal rescue center in Harwood) (supporting women and girls)

Facebook page for Sarah’s House

Those are just some of the volunteer opportunities available in our area. Some of those are for you to help other people. Some are to help animals. Here’s why I included both— we know that a strong influence on mood is whether you are engaged in activities that you feel are meaningful. So, if you want to improve your mood and the quality of your life, contribute to someone else’s, human or animal.

Sharing and caring — not just for the holidays.

Benna Sherman, PhD, is a Licensed Psychologist in private practice in Maryland. Her website is

She can be found on Twitter @DrBenna and on Facebook @Dr. Benna Sherman.

She is the author of How to Get and Give Love – Relationship Mapsand has a free monthly newsletter: to subscribe.

She has had a column, “Relationship Maps”, in The Capital newspaper for 15 years. She is a member of Division 42, of the Maryland Psychological Association, as well as American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.