Holiday Depression & Domestic Violence

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Holiday Depression & Domestic Violence

Every year it seems to get worse. When I first became a cop, I was a bit surprised to see what the holidays do to some people. While most people are in a happy holiday mood, cooking, shopping, wrapping presents, others are in a deep depression.

The holidays bring depression to a lot of people for different reasons. Some are depressed because they are alone, some because they lost their loved ones, some because they are having marital or family problems, and some due to financial or job related problems. But the common thread here is that holiday depression usually ends up in violence, family or domestic disputes, or suicide.

Not a happy topic to talk about, but a reality. The holidays seem to push some people over the edge. Calls of domestic violence and suicide rates always increase over the holiday period. I remember my first year as a police officer.
On a Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m., I was dispatched to a call of a female chasing a male around the street with a butcher knife. They had gotten into a physical altercation over an argument about how to carve a turkey. Luckily, only the turkey got carved.

That same year, Christmas Eve, I got dispatched to the call of a subject who had hung himself. When I arrived, the victims wife had already cut him down. (too late to save him though). He had hung himself with an extension cord in his garage. He had left his family a note saying that he was in the garage. He failed to say that he would be hanging form the rafters. His wife and young kids found him. That’s not something that I would want my kids to have to remember for the rest of their lives.

Depression affects thousands of people almost everyday, but the statistics soar around the holidays. The holidays seem to add a burden that pushes people over the edge. The biggest problem is domestic violence. Family disputes seem to erupt over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Everything from family members in a physical fight, to murders, or ADW’s (assault with deadly weapons) calls soar around this time. The next holiday statistic is suicide. It seems that the holidays just push people over the edge.

Like I said, not a pleasant topic to talk about with the holiday season here, but if you or tips from NetCops could help avoid a domestic dispute or worse a suicide attempt, then it’s all worth it. Here are a few holiday tips to avoid a needless holiday tragedy:

• If you or a family member suffers from depression or are on medication for depression, keep a close eye on mood swings or noticeable behavior changes, especially around the holiday season. If you notice something unusual, notify your doctor or your relative’s doctor, or the police.

• If a friend, family member, etc. stops taking their medication, or mentions suicide or comments about not wanting to live, call the police. We would rather arrive and evaluate the person for a mental evaluation than to have to notify the next of kin because of a suicide death. You would be the one that would have to live with yourself knowing that you could have helped.

• One thing that we get many calls for during the holiday season in regards to this topic, is “Welfare Checks”. If you notice something strangely “different” in someone’s voice whether it be on the phone, or in person, or if anything is said that would lead you to believe that the person is exhibiting deep depression or suicidal thoughts, please call us. We will send an officer out to make a casual contact with the person and make sure that everything is OK. We are not “shrinks” but we are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health status. We also have the authority to place a person under a hold for up to 72 hours, for an emergency evaluation at the hospital.
If you request a “Welfare Check” a couple of the things we would like to know beforehand are, if the person has any weapons in the house. Is there a past history of mental health problems? Has the person ever exhibited violence? Who lives with the person?

• Keep alcohol to a minimum at family gatherings, especially around the holidays. Alcohol makes people say and do things that they normally wouldn’t do sober. Alcohol has been the cause of many fights, domestic disputes, family breakups and suicides. If alcohol seems to be causing a problem, put it away and call the police.

• Take all threats of suicide or “self harming statements” seriously, such as “you’d be better off without me”, or “When I’m gone, tell the kids I love them”, or “I’m worthless”. These statements may not mean much at the time, but they could be a cry for help. A cry for help that could save a life.

• Keep all firearms locked up at ALL times. The holidays just seem to push people to violence or suicide. You don’t need a deadly weapon easily accessible.

• If you feel threatened or feel that someone you know is in danger, call the police. Like I said, we would rather defuse the situation and get someone help before someone gets hurt, or worse, killed.

• Report all signs or incidents of domestic violence. These types of cases soar around the holidays.

Holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, happiness, and love for most people. But the holidays also trigger violence and depression for many. By calling for help in a needed situation, you can save a life.

If you feel suicidal, or if you feel violent during the upcoming holiday season, call the police BEFORE you act out. You will not be in trouble. We can get you help. If you commit a violent act, then you will be held responsible. If you witness a violent act, report it. It WILL only get worse. An abuser should never be protected.
Domestic violence is a FELONY offense in California and in most of the U.S. Please help us in trying to reduce the incidents of domestic violence and suicides during the most active part of the year for it.

Unfortunately, the holidays can often bring out the worst in people. With everybody’s help, we can make this holiday season a happy season for most.

ML

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