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Winter holiday suicide myth continues to be reinforced in press, APPC study finds

The annual analysis by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of news reporting during the previous winter holiday period reveals that newspapers continued to perpetuate the myth that suicides rise during the holidays. The proportion of stories that supported the myth during the 2009-2010 holidays remained at approximately the same level as during the previous holiday period (see Table 1 below).

Released today, the APPC study shows that nearly 50 percent of the articles written during last year’s holiday season that made a direct connection between suicide and the holiday season perpetuated the myth. That represents a small and statistically non-significant increase from the previous holiday period when about 38 percent supported the myth (see Figure 1 below).

The rate of suicide in the U.S. is in fact lowest in December, and peaks in the spring and fall. Data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (see Figure 2 below) show that this pattern has not changed in recent years (2007 is the most recent year for which national data are available).

As part of its efforts to improve coverage of suicide in the press, APPC has been tracking holiday suicide reporting since 2000 when it released its first press alert on newspaper coverage of the myth.