By Colleen Smith
Most of us associate depression with the darker months of winter.
But the highest rates of suicide are actually in the spring, and the lowest rates are in December.
Medical professionals speculate that the months of May and June are difficult for people who endured a lonely winter and still feel alone and sad despite the sun shining, birds chirping and friends enjoying more social gatherings.
“I believe that those who may have spent the winter depressed find themselves, in the spring, still depressed, but with the energy and motivation to take their own life,” said Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Adam Kaplin (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/articles/suicide-rates-spike-in-spring-not-winter).
Another possible cause is inflammation, which can increase in the spring. Those who suffer from seasonal allergies and autoimmune diseases (like multiple sclerosis, arthritis and lupus) are more at risk for depression.
If you or someone you know is preoccupied with suicide or death, it is imperative to take that very seriously. There are other signs for those who may be at risk: changes in eating and sleep habits; loss of interest in usual activities; pulling away from friends and family members; alcohol and drug use; unnecessary risk taking; being suddenly cheerful after a period of depression; increased complaints of physical ailments; not caring about personal appearance; feelings of boredom and trouble concentrating; and lack of response to praise.
According to the Community Health Plan of Washington, it’s important to note that these are warning signs and do not necessarily mean that the person is planning to do something. However, it’s critical to take any mention of suicide seriously. If you are concerned about someone, don’t be afraid to ask what’s wrong or bring up the subject of suicide. Offer your support by being kind and patient, offering to help and reassuring the person that they will get better with the right kind of treatment. Talk about the situation as openly as possible. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance advises to not promise confidentiality and that it’s OK to involve friends and family members.
The Community Health Plan offers access to providers, crisis helplines, local support groups and information on managing mental health conditions at https://www.chpw.org/for-members/mental-health-resources/. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone number is 1-800-273-8255.
Finding help can feel like an enormous task but there are so many resources available thanks to the internet and increased awareness of mental health. We will continue to highlight topics like domestic violence, sexual assault, mental illness and suicide in our pages because education is the first step in prevention.