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Spring: a time to be vigilant about suicide prevention

April 17, 2019

Many people believe that suicide rates peak during the winter months. Intuitively, this makes sense given the existence of seasonal affective disorder and the tendency to associate depression with winter. Some also believe that the holidays amplify loneliness in people who have lost loved ones.

But suicide statistics suggest a different story. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics report that suicide rates in the United States are lowest during the winter months and highest in the summer and spring.

This observed pattern may be counter-intuitive, and there are several theories as to why it occurs. The most significant psychological explanation for this phenomenon is that those who suffer from chronic depression get through a bleak winter only to realize that that the spring sunshine doesn’t improve their mood. When people all around them are coming out of the winter, but the individual is still suffering, hopelessness sets in and mood darkens.

One of the warning signs of suicide is when a depressed person has a burst of energy where the mood seems to improve. This is called a ‘flight into health’ and generally signifies that the individual now has the energy to kill themselves.

The winter season can take a toll on anyone. If a loved one continues to express their hopelessness in the spring, then it may be time to talk to them about seeking professional help. But keep in mind that the individual may want to avoid treatment for a variety of reasons, and despite our efforts, they may choose not to accept the advice. This is not a failure on our part, but rather a self determination of the loved one.

If you or someone you know has thought about ending their life, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.