Spring is usually considered to be a time of hope and renewal, yet surprisingly it is also the peak season for suicides. Between early April and late May more suicides are reported than at around the holidays, so why is this?
There are in fact, several reasons. According to a 2016 op-ed in The Washington Post, an increase in sunlight might give those suffering with severe depression more energy to find ways to end their lives.
Harvard professor of psychology Matthew Nock cited a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. “The authors speculate that sunlight could boost energy and motivation, thus giving people who are depressed the ability to take action and make a suicide attempt,” he wrote.
Another reason could be seasonal affective disorder. Although typically associated with winter, warmer temperatures and sunny days aren’t always enough to lift the blues.
One solution is to seek treatment no matter what time of year you are feeling down. Getting support from licensed clinicians, friends and family may help things from escalating out of control.
Dr Lisa Pinto, Psy. D and co-founder of Naperville Clinical Associates, says that counseling can help not only patients, but family members left behind if they lose a loved one.
“The most common feeling people who attempt suicide experience is feeling alone. Never be afraid to ask people how they are doing- you won’t cause them to kill themselves,” she said. “Guilt is a part of all grieving but typically with suicide survivors feel guilt for “not knowing or helping” their loved one.
“Anger is also common as surviving families feel angry that they were left and confused as to why the person was so desperate.”
Dr Pinto said she never refers to people “committing” suicide
“It’s an illness not a crime,” she commented.
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to suicide. Survivors groups can be instrumental in helping people deal with the shame of losing a loved one this way.
The following warning signs are indicators that a person may need urgent help.
- Talking about wanting to die.
- Looking for ways to do so.
- Talking about feeling hopeless with no purpose.
- Talking about feeling trapped.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious.
- Sleeping either too little or too much.
- Show rage or talking about revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
Anyone who feels they might be at risk for depression should keep a journal of their feelings. Records things like mood, changes in appetite and sleep issues. Dr Michelle Riba, M.D. Professor and Associate Director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center talks of a phenomenon called summertime depression which might follow symptoms first arising in the spring.
“We don’t really know why. It may be hormonal for women, and there are theories related to melatonin production, but we’re not sure why,” she said.
If you have had suicidal thoughts, or are worried about a friend or family member, seek help immediately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255.