I first saw this reported in the Wall Street Journal Health Blog. Shirley S. Wang reports,
"Between late ‘99 and early ‘06 more than 40% of newspaper stories that reported on suicide during the holidays perpetuated the myth that the holiday season led to a rise in the suicide rate, according to an analysis released yesterday by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania."
According to a NYU Medical Center article, True or False: Depression and Suicide Rates Rise During the Holiday Season, the opposite is true: Suicide rates actually drop in the winter months and rise in the spring.
Another organization, Suicide and Mental Health Association International (SMHAI) has an in-depth report on the press's reporting inaccuracies.
It is heartening, however, that the press is acknowledging it's role in perpetuating this myth. In a particularly astute opinion piece from 2005, USA Today's DeWayne Wickman chides his colleagues for linking the suicide of a famous football coach's son to the Christmas holiday.
This does not mean that we all shouldn't be more watchful of those we care about who display depression symptoms this time of year. It is simply a reminder that when it comes to mental health, the media often gets it wrong and that we should do more of our own research when we see these headlines.