November 20 is a special day for many, and it comes up just before the holidays — which can be very hard for anyone who has lost a loved one. November 20 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. As you can imagine, this isn’t just another commemorative day among many. For those personally affected by the tragedy of suicide, it’s an important reminder of moving forward.
One good thing to know is that suicide is not more common around the holidays. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has tracked the data and found that the winter months are lower in suicide deaths in the US. And of all the months of the year, rates are lowest in December. So that myth about holiday suicides can be set aside.
But the holidays can still be a struggle for those who have lost a loved one. Harvard Health recommends a few strategies to get through the season of merry and family-focused activities. They suggest giving yourself time and expressing your needs. You can start a new tradition, like adding a lighted candle at the table for the lost loved one or leaving an empty chair.
That tragedy of suicide almost struck my family a year ago, when the stresses of COVID-19 overwhelmed my teenage son. The loss of typical milestones like high school graduation and the usual freshman college experience were enough to make life feel dark and hopeless. But access to hospitalization and medication were made available, and he stands as a survivor today. Particularly this year, many have experienced losses, so taking stock before the holidays begin isn’t a bad idea. Having a close brush with suicide loss, I want to make sure that those who have suffered know about the resources, hope, and healing that are available on November 20.
Several local chapters of AFSP will be hosting a meeting or a vigil Nov. 20, and Taryn Hiatt at firstname.lastname@example.org can provide more information. Locally, the Life’s Worth Living Foundation is a great resource, with local support groups on Thursdays, with more details at email@example.com. For more general suicide prevention information, the state of Utah launched its LiveOnUtah.org website, full of resources. Finally, Tooele City’s CTC has been hosting community classes on suicide prevention for years, called Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) trainings, and the city website has all the details.
Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County Office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2409 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.