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Holidays can bring out desperate behavior

Dec. 24, 2013 at 7:21 AM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Suicide rates are lower during the holidays compared to other times of the year, but they can be a lonely time for those alone, a U.S. researcher says.

Dr. Mark DeSilva, medical director of the emergency department of the Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System near Chicago, said during the holidays, the hospital emergency department sees an increase in visits from people who have engaged in potentially self-destructive or depressive behavior.

"For those who have no support system, no friends, family, loved ones or even co-workers, the holidays can prove very deadly," DeSilva said in a statement. "Everywhere, there are signs of gatherings, gift exchanges, happiness and love. If you are not experiencing what the rest of the world is enjoying, it is very bitter."

DeSilva, who has worked in the Emergency Department at Gottlieb for more than a dozen years, said: "The holidays bring out desperate behavior in unstable individuals and they frequently end up in the [emergency room] as a medical emergency."

DeSilva said there are signs a person might be feeling overwhelmed and opportunities to intervene, when you see:

-- Isolated behavior. Most people are busy going to social gatherings, shopping, attending events and connecting with friends. "Look for those who shun social interaction or who consistently do not attend events that they say they will," DeSilva said.

-- Angry mood. "The person expresses sarcasm, unhappiness or criticism of others' joy in the season and is consistently pessimistic," DeSilva said.

-- Alcohol or drug excess. "Beer or cocktails, readily available throughout the holidays, or illegal drugs, are overindulged to numb the pain the individual is feeling and offer an escape from reality," DeSilva said.

-- Missing frequently from work/social activities. "Facing others who are happy and bright is often too difficult for those feeling the holiday blues," DeSilva said. "They may be consistently absent or very late to work or no-shows at anticipated social engagements."

-- Excessive sleeping. "Depression often takes the guise of extreme fatigue or tiredness. The body shuts down to form an escape from the everyday world," DeSilva said.

If you see signs of extreme behavior in a friend, family member or acquaintance, act immediately.

"Talk to the individual and tell them the behavior that you are seeing and offer to help," DeSilva said. "There are social services, community groups, churches and other programs that can intervene. By recognizing when a person is in trouble, and speaking out, you may not only save them a trip to the hospital, but also save a life."

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