While the holiday season may not actually see a rise in suicides, local emergency responders and family counsellors still say they often see an increase in conflict, stress and loneliness this time of year.
"We experience a lot more emergency people coming into the counselling office . . . people who desperately need to talk to somebody," Ann Davis Transition Society executive director Bobbi Jacob said. "We see a lot more emergency walk-ins at the counselling office."
Contrary to popular belief, North American suicide rates are actually lower than normal during November, December and January. But that doesn't mean that the family season does not present it's own challenges.
One of those is domestic violence, as local Mounties reminded the public last week in a news release.
RCMP spokesperson Const. Tracy Wolbeck said family, alcohol consumption, and money and time pressures can all increase the strain on volatile relationships.
"Finances and over-spending can be a major trigger for domestic violence at this time of year," Wolbeck said.
Jacob said that while her organization's transition house usually shelters at least a couple women and children over the Christmas season, it often sees an influx after Dec. 25.
"There's so much stress and tension over Christmas: the kids are out of school, they've been out for a week or so, they're going to be out for another week, so there's a lot of demands to deal with," she said.
"There's often a lot more alcohol use and that can increase domestic violence."
In her release, Wolbeck encouraged people who might be in a high-conflict environment to plan their holiday schedules, limit alcohol consumption and set limits on discussions that could result in loud yelling matches.
Jacob emphasized the need for those at risk of abuse to develop a safety plan for when a situation grows beyond their control.
Don't be afraid to talk to people in need
Jacob said there are also many people who come to the transition house around Christmas time seeking help and refuge from problems unrelated to domestic violence.
"Sometimes it's just people feeling desperately lonely or they have a mental illness and they just can't cope with memories of bad things that have happened over Christmases," she said.
Fortunately, sometimes all the help needed is for a friend or a family member to lend their ear in a time of need. "We shouldn't be afraid to talk to the people we care about about their situation in a safe confidential manner," Jacob said. "Let that person know that there's somewhere they can go that they're supported."