While Valentine’s Day generally conjures up images of happy couples and romantic proposals, for some the holiday represents something else entirely — the beginning of a predicted increased suicide rate on the Central Coast.
“The myth is that Christmas is the most high risk time for people to become suicidal, but actually it’s springtime,” said Diane Brice, director of Suicide Prevention Service of the Central Coast (SPSCC). “Nationally, that’s the time with the highest rate of suicide.”
It’s a scenario Brice has seen play out again and again during her 23 years coordinating and training the volunteers who man the suicide hotline at SPSCC.
The holiday season comes and people make an extra effort to reach out — family gatherings and festivities provide a source of inclusion and distraction to counteract the isolation Brice said is the most dangerous trigger for potentially suicidal persons. New Year’s brings fresh resolutions and it appears that maybe things are about to start looking up.
“And then February comes and you’re supposed to be in love and you’re supposed to be feeling better because it’s springtime, but some people don’t,” Brice said. “That’s when it gets really difficult for people, because of the expectation to feel better.”
In her experience, Valentine’s Day marks the beginning of this cycle, which generally increases in intensity until April when suicides spike nationally.
“[It’s] because there’s so much emphasis put on being partnered [and] being in love, and a lot of people just aren’t,” Brice said.
After a year-long study of the causes callers to SPSCC’s hotline give for contemplating suicide, Brice found that the number one reason was failing relationships, with financial woes a close second.
“It’s so easy for all these different pressures to build up,” said Lynn, a volunteer at SPSCC who declined to give her real name. “People get isolated, disconnected and then they’re left wondering, ‘Where do I go for help? Why isn’t there anyone I can talk to?’”
Operating out of an undisclosed location in Santa Cruz, SPSCC’s five staff members and 88 volunteers are always ready to assist individuals who have hit a rough spot in their lives.
Lynn said the hotline is an excellent way to connect with someone who’ll listen and help callers work through their problems. After losing a friend to suicide a few years back, she said it’s a cause that’s close to her heart.
While Lynn and the others at SPSCC prepare for their busy season, Brice encourages people to rethink what Valentine’s Day means to them.
“I would really like it if Valentine’s Day was just about love and not romance,” Brice said. “It’s just sort of a strange celebration, because it’s not an inclusive celebration. It’s hard to be left out of something like that, especially if somebody’s having a hard time already.”
The SPSCC is able to offer its services to the Central Coast only due to the efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers. They have a spring training period coming up and strongly encourage persons of all age groups and backgrounds to apply.
Their office can be reached at 831-459-9373.The SPSCC’s 24-hour toll free Suicide Hotline is (831)-538-5300.