Springtime Leads to Increased Risk of Suicides

Brunette woman sadly looking out window.

Much like the spring season itself, our lives can be tumultuous. According to a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older, or over 6% of the US population, have suffered at least one major depressive episode in the last year. Factually speaking, an even more difficult reality to bear is that suicide rates tend to spike just as the winter cold subsides. This is contrary to assumed beliefs about the holiday season and the impact of winter blues. The CDC reports that the uptick in suicides appears to start in early April and tapers off through May.

Read on to learn about the theories behind this phenomenon and how you can help protect your loved ones.

The Biology Behind Self-Harm

Spring is a time for new beginnings, yet the juxtaposition between a blooming world and a barren-seeming life is often overwhelming for the clinically depressed.  In an article on LiveScience, researchers examined both the physical and social causes that contribute to this fact. “It’s possible that people who are depressed can’t muster the energy to make and go through with a suicide plan in the winter,” said Dr. Adam Kaplin, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. But psychiatrists suggest that as the days lengthen and sunlight increases, they might feel just better enough to follow through with their plans.

Furthermore, as another study suggests, sunlight-driven changes in levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin may make people more aggressive. If they are already depressed, this can lead to self-harm. .Meanwhile, other researchers believe that the influence of sunlight on another hormone, melatonin, is to blame. Sunlight inhibits production of melatonin, which is known to influence our behavior. There are also studies that link an increase in barometric pressure, inflammation, and other physiological events to an increase in depression and suicide.

Another possible culprit is the lingering effects of winter blues. Add to it the fact that everything around you seems to indicate that you should be feeling cheery and you have the start of a dangerous cycle of depression.

Three Things You Can Do to Help Prevent Suicide

No matter what the cause, late winter/early spring is a good time to educate yourself about suicide prevention. Unfortunately, the chances are good that you know one or more people who are currently contemplating suicide. Learn to spot the warning signs, and if you know someone who might be at risk, consider these three easy-to-remember steps:

  • Ask. Ask your loved one if they are thinking of harming themselves. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Ask directly and unambiguously. Surprisingly, those who are considering suicide are often inclined to answer honestly. Your simple act of asking will help demonstrate you care. Additionally, there are many other questions you can ask that might keep the conversation going, and also lead the person to set aside their intentions. Here are some suggestions from those who have been there themselves.
  • Listen. If the person answers that they are suicidal, take time to listen to them and allow them to express how they are feeling. Don’t insert platitudes, tell them it will get better, that they need to pray on it, or make them feel guilty for contemplating taking their own life. Also, don’t leave them alone. Stay with them or get someone else reliable to stay with them. You can read more about what to say or what not to say in this article.
  • Seek help. The best thing you can do is involve a professional. Get them appropriate and professional help. Instruct them to call a crisis line like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255), or call yourself if they are unable or unwilling. Encourage them to make an appointment with their doctor or a therapist, or seek an online therapy resource like TalkSpace. Even if the danger is not immediate, they may require long-term support for the issues associated with their feelings.

A Final Word From Aftermath

It is our sincere wish that you and your loved ones never experience the pain and grief that come with suicide. However, we realize that suicide is something that can happen to any family, anywhere. In addition to the struggles normally associated with any sudden death, feelings of guilt or shame may complicate other emotions and make mundane tasks such as cleanup especially traumatic and difficult.

If you or someone you know has experienced a suicide in the home, please consider reaching out to a professional biohazard cleaning service like Aftermath. Our compassionate technicians will help provide you with peace of mind as they restore order to your living space. Call our nationwide hotline at 877-698-6169 for immediate cleanup assistance 24/7. You can also submit a service request online by filling out this form.