Doctor warns of suicide risk rising after Christmas


Post-Christmas blues - a phenomenon known to psychologists as the "broken promise effect" - can result in a 40 per cent rise in attempted suicide, it was stated yesterday.

According to Dr John F Connolly, secretary of the Irish Association of Suicidology, the "highs" of the festive period can quickly be replaced by intense depression.

Dr Connolly, speaking from his home in Castlebar, Co Mayo, said: "The 'broken promise effect' is a complex social phenomenon to do with the anticlimax after the festive season which has not lived up to expectations, coupled, no doubt, in some cases with the after effects of over indulgence in alcohol.

"Alcohol is a drug that breaks its promise. After the initial feel-good factor associated with drinking comes the let down of hangovers, irritability, depression and sometimes hopelessness, aggression and suicidal thoughts. Drink, like Christmas, often does not live up to its promise or our expectations.

"The danger time is after Christmas when the excitement is over and we return to our mundane routines. For many, the promise of Christmas will not have been realised.

"The holiday will have been full of disappointments and hopes unrealised. Problems set aside and put out of mind for the duration of the festive season emerge again, after a brief respite, with a vengeance, made worse by the brief glimmer of hope in the preceding days.

"Over the holiday period, a great deal of help and support is available to most people. People make allowances for each other and perhaps there is a little more togetherness and integration than at other times of the year. However, soon after the holiday period ritual routine expressions of good will and support dissipate rapidly.

"Availability and accessibility of many sources of social support and help disappear, and many vulnerable people at risk of suicide and suicidal behaviour are alone once again in their pain until next Christmas, if they survive."

Dr Connolly said Christmas is a time of joy, hope and promise. But for people bereaved by suicide it can be a difficult time during which the traumas of the past re-emerge.

"It is also a time for remembrance. The pain of grief and mourning can become intense and the sense of loss overwhelming at this time."