Stony Brook Medicine Experts on Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays |

Holiday bluesFor many, the holidays mean a time to celebrate and spend time with friends and family. But for some, the season is filled with feelings of stress, sadness and loneliness.

The annual stressors of the holidays can be enough to push those struggling with mental health over the edge. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among Americans ages 10 to 34. It is the fourth leading cause of death among those aged 35 to 44 and the fifth leading cause of death among those aged 45-55.

Stony Brook Medicine experts Suzie Marriott, MS, RN, PMH-BC, and Susan Wilner, LCSV, share what to look out for and mental health tips to keep in mind as you head into the new year. Marriott is chair of the Suicide Committee, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of patient care services at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital. Wilner is the Associate Director of Behavioral Health Services and an appointed member of the Committee on Suicide.

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Tips to keep in mind this holiday season:

  • If you, someone close to you, or someone you know is experiencing a suicidal crisis or is in emotional distress, call or text 988 and speak confidentially to a trained counselor 24 hours a day on the Suicide and Crisis Line.
  • The holidays can trigger difficult memories or thoughts for many individuals. Stay connected with others by checking in daily, even if they look good.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t forget to participate in self-care activities to reduce stress during the holidays.
  • Be mindful of people’s boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself or others emotionally, physically or financially.
  • Remember that you don’t know what people are dealing with this time of year. Acts of kindness to both those you know and strangers you meet can really make a difference to them and to you!
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What triggers suicidal thoughts?

The CDC reports that approximately 12.2 million American adults have seriously considered suicide in 2020. Some contributing factors include:

  • Feeling isolated or disconnected from others
  • Loss of a loved one (especially in the last two years)
  • Legal problems or previous criminal record
  • Being a victim of abuse
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial stress or job loss
  • Depression, anxiety or other emotional problems
  • History of self-harm and/or previous suicide attempts
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior

Who is most at risk?

Some people are more affected by suicide than others. These include:

  • Veterans and other military personnel
  • Law enforcement
  • Health workers
  • Farmers and sailors
  • People in construction, art, design, entertainment, sports and media
  • LGBTQ+ youth
  • Caucasians, 44 to 65 and 85 and older
  • Those diagnosed with major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use and eating disorders
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Are there any warning signs?

The CDC has identified 12 warning signs of suicide:

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Talking or posting about wanting to die
  • He is making plans to commit suicide
  • You are looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Sleeping too little or too much

If you or someone you know may be struggling, there are a number of resources. This includes but is not limited to:

Speak with a Stony Brook suicide prevention specialist by calling (631) 632-9510 (adults) or (631) 632-8850 (children).

For more information on coping with the holiday blues, visit the Stony Brook Medicine website.

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