Why do suicide rates rise in the Spring?

Written by: Howell Shrage, MD

Suicide rates are highest during the spring and early summer months of April, May, and June. This may seem hard to believe, but statistics over the last many years bear this out.  It is a myth that the winter months lead to more suicides. In fact, December the darkest and one of the coldest months of the year has the lowest suicide rate.

 

Why do suicide rates rise in the Spring?

For Adults, Theories include:

A.) People who’ve struggled with depression during the winter continue to be depressed in the spring. Exposure to more daylight in the springtime increases energy and motivation which could turn someone who is passively suicidal into someone who is a danger to themselves.

B.) Depressed people are isolated during the winter months. When spring begins there is an expectation that people will spend time outdoors and socialize with friends. Missing out on this experience can worsen feelings of loneliness and disappointment and make people more likely to act on suicidal thoughts.

C.) There is an association between inflammation in the brain and mood disorders. Spring brings pollen and allergic reactions to some, and this results in an inflammatory response. It is hypothesized that inflammation may lead to depression or exacerbate the symptoms of those already experiencing depression.  

 

SUICIDE IS THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN TEENAGERS AGES 15-19.

For Teenagers, the reasons are clearer. The seasonal pattern relates to school issues. In the spring, high school seniors learn about college acceptances/rejections and are making the difficult decision about which college to attend. Other high school students who have struggled with their grades may be learning they are going to summer school or be repeating an academic year. These stressful situations can worsen already existing symptoms of anxiety and depression, possibly increasing the risk of suicidal behaviors. Noticeable changes in behavior in teenagers may include irritability, isolation, and impulsivity. When parents become aware of these behavioral changes, they should speak with their children.

 

Warning Signs of Suicide: If you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of the following behaviors, he or she may be thinking about suicide. Don’t ignore these warning signs. Get help immediately.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings  

 

RESOURCES FOR WELLLIFE NETWORK STAFF: WellLife Network’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). For a private and confidential appointment with a counselor. Telephone Number: 1-888-209-7840

 

Resources for the general population:

24/7 National Crisis Hotlines 

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/en-espanol/

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help/#trevorChat

References:

CDC.org

Hopkinsmedicine.org

Inquier.com 

 

About the Author: Dr. Schrage is a practicing psychiatrist for some 34 years. He graduated from Downstate Medical Center and interned at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center. He received his Board Certification in psychiatry in 1987 and in 1996 received certification in psychiatry. Dr. Schrage has held many academic appointments and professional positions, most notably as the Medical Director, Geriatric Partial Hospital Program, Northern Westchester Hospital; Associate Clinical Director, Community Services, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center; Coordinator, Medical Student Education in Psychiatry Coordinator, Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Director of ECT Service, Northern Westchester Hospital. Dr. Schrage has published articles appearing in the American Journal of Psychiatry and has made presentations psychiatric conferences on HIV infection and the psychiatric patient.

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