Colorado has one of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S., with 1,175 suicides last year alone, according to data from the Colorado Health Institute.

In 2018, there were 11 suicides in Summit County, which has a population of about 30,000 people.

The holidays can be a particularly stressful time of year. Here are some commonly asked questions about the holidays and mental health.

Why are the holidays so stressful?

This time of year can be challenging for people, especially as the holidays approach. There can be financial challenges with trying to provide the essentials, as well as special presents for kids and families. These are also times when loneliness can be worsened, especially for those who are not close to their families. Shorter days and worse weather can also worsen underlying mental health and depression symptoms. And there are of course the additional stressors of work, family, life, and balancing it all.

Do suicide rates go up during this time of year?

Suicide rates decrease in December, and peak in the spring and fall. But that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. Risk factors can be put into three categories: health, environmental, and historical factors. Anyone who has a history of mental health issues, especially depression, substance abuse, or anxiety, chronic pain or traumatic brain injury can be at risk. Environmental factors can include stressful life events, access to guns, work or personal issues (like a breakup, divorce or loss of a job). And, historical factors a personal or family history of suicide or suicide attempts, or abuse can also contribute.

What can people do to minimize their stress and improve their mental health?

Find ways to de-stress. Whatever works best for you. Some activities which have been shown to help with stress are exercise, meditation, reading, getting outdoors, listening to music. Really, whatever works best for you and your interests. There is no magic stress-reliever, but it is important to find what works best for you. We do say to avoid using drugs and alcohol for stress relief, as this can lead to overuse and additional stressors.

 

Be on the lookout for any signs and symptoms of mood change, behavioral issues, depression, anxiety, not acting normally, or drinking/using drugs. If you see or hear anything of concern, get medical help immediately. It’s amazing how often family and friends will say that they noticed changes but did not want to hurt the person’s feelings or interfere or be nosey. This is not the case. Do what you can to get the person to help as soon as possible.

Follow 9NEWS Medical Expert Dr. Comilla Sasson on Facebook and Twitter. Have a medical question or health topic idea? Email Dr. Comilla at c.sasson@9news.com

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline