Mental Health Tips

Latest Causes

It’s Okay to not be Okay, Even During the Holidays with Anna Gai

December 19, 2019

The Check-In Project team sat down with Anna Gai, Director of the Statewide Office for Suicide Prevention with the Florida Department of Children and Families, to discuss coping with stress during the holidays and the warning signs of suicide.

Maintaining a routine and structure can go a long way in helping combat mental health difficulties. This routine includes:

  • A regular sleep schedule and regular eating
  • Continue to engage with activities or things that you need to do
  • Do something fun or enjoyable each day such as reading, writing, painting, playing an instrument, playing with your cat or dog, or knitting

Other things you can do to combat seasonal stress are:

  • Maintain our social connectedness, however possible
  • Mindfulness activities, such as deep breathing
  • Regular exercise can improve both our physical and mental health

Typically, there is a slight decrease in suicide experiences in December. This may be an effect of the holiday season, but it is important to recognize that for a lot of people, the holiday season is extremely stressful in many different ways. Especially now, with COVID-19, limited travel abilities, and need for physical distancing are likely to add additional strain and experiences such as loneliness. It’s more important than ever to learn some of the warning signs of suicide and suicide-related thoughts to help each other and our loved ones stay safe this holiday season. 

A common myth surrounding suicide is that individuals who talk about suicide are doing so for attention. In reality, many individuals who die or attempt suicide have given some clue or warning. Here are some of the themes individuals who may be experiencing suicidal ideation may express:

  • Mentioning of struggling in school or at work
  • Discussion of feeling trapped or being a burden
  • Expressing a feeling of hopelessness
  • Explicitly talking about suicide or wanting to die
  • Talking about experiencing unbearable pain or having no reason to live
Strategies for coping with seasonal stress from The Check-In Project

Change in behavior

Another way individuals may show signs of suicide-related thoughts and behaviors is through changes in their behaviors such as:

  • Showing signs of social withdrawal
  • Isolating themselves from others
  • Changes in their sleep
  • Suddenly acting more recklessly than in the past
  • Visiting or calling to say goodbye 

It’s important to take note of changes in behaviors. If someone is typically hard to get in touch with, that may not be a sign of social withdrawal. Rather, really look for differences in a person’s behavior.

Change in mood

Someone experiencing depression may:

  • Have a loss of interest
  • Increased irritability and sudden bouts of rage or anxiety
  • Recent feelings of humiliation that just won’t go away

Actions you can take

Knowing some of the warning signs of suicide, here are some ideas of what to do if you see some of these signs. The first step is to have a conversation. 

  • Asking directly and using specific words will help you best understand what someone might be feeling and thinking. Some phrases you can use are:
  • “Have you had thoughts of suicide?”
  • “Do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?”
  • “Do you have a plan to kill yourself?”

Talking about suicide will not give someone the idea and is actually one of the most helpful things you can do.

If someone says they have been wanting to die or have thoughts of suicide, what do you do? 

  • Stay calm and respond with kindness and care
  • Do your best to listen without judgement and provide support
  • Listen for specific reasons to live or reasons against death, things like a support system or plans for the future
  • It is best not to argue or challenge the person, and don’t dismiss their pain or minimize their problems
  • Try saying things like, “I’m here to listen and support you,” and “It sounds like you’re going through a lot right now. I want you to know that I care about you.”

It’s important to know that help and resources are available:

Of course, if you believe you or your loved one is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or the National Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The lifeline is also available 24/7 in times when you just need someone to talk to.

By having these sometimes difficult conversations and reaching out to loved ones who are struggling, we are all helping to break the stigma surrounding mental health in our community. Take the pledge to check-in at

Email: info@thecheckinproject.ORG// Phone: 407-870-4897