Christmas can be a difficult time of the year for people affected by suicide and mental health difficulties. For those of us who are coping with mental ill health, it can be difficult to deal with the stress that sometimes accompanies Christmas and the disruption of every day routines that occurs over the Christmas period.  

Recent self-harm studies that have been conducted by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) show that presentations of self-harm to hospital Emergency Departments increase during national public holidays. They have coined this observed pattern a ‘paradox’ of public holidays because, ‘while such days are generally perceived as a period of celebration or non-work, they may in fact be times of increased risk for self-harm among vulnerable individuals’ (Arensman, E, Corcoran, P, Griffin, Eve, Dillona, C B, Perry I J, O’Regana, G). 

The NSRF studies also show that: 

  • There was an average of 32 presentations per day on public holidays. 
  • Presentations on public holidays were more likely to attend out of normal working hours. 
  • Although there is actually a decrease in self-harm presentations around Christmas day compared to other public holidays, there is an increase in presentations at the New Year. 
  • There was an over-representation of males presenting for the first time on public holidays. 
  • Self-harm presentations during public holidays had a 24% increased risk of involving alcohol consumption compared to all other days. 
  • Self-harm involving alcohol was most strongly linked to the Christmas period, suggesting that it is still a period which may impact negatively on persons with underlying mental health issues. 


Association between alcohol and self-harm presentations on public holidays.
(Figure from National Self-Harm Registry Ireland 2016.)

Bearing this information in mind we ask journalists to: 

  • Signpost to further sources of support – Quite often the supports that exist for people with mental health difficulties may not be available during the Christmas period so making people aware that 24-hour services, such as Samaritans and Pieta House, are available is vital. 
  • Include stories of personal experience and recovery.  
  • Avoid graphic details of suicide or self-harm. 
  • Include comments and/or statistics from a mental healthcare professional or an organisation specialising in mental health issues. 
  • Avoid disclosing the contents of any suicide note. 
  • Use correct terminology when it comes to reporting about mental illnesses and avoid negative or sensational language. 

If you would like more information on the mental health and suicide reporting guidelines please contact us or visit the following pages: