Spring Brings Higher Suicide Rates

Spring fever spreads across the country as the sunny weather replaces dismal winter, usually spawning restless joy and crops of couples.

But for many, the season of rebirth is deadly.

Suicides occur most frequently in the six months between March and August, with an average of 86.85 per day, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

“Most suicides occur in the spring,” Dr. Stephen Soreff, chief psychiatric editor at emedicine.com said.

Why spring? The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming and love is in the air. Everyone should be feeling chipper, right?

But doctors say that's one of the very reasons people take their lives during this season.

“Put yourself in the position of being sad and depressed and it’s winter — often you’re surrounded by other people in the same state, and misery loves company,” said Soreff.

“Then, suddenly, on a warm spring day people are feeling good and you are feeling just as depressed as before. It highlights the difference between you and others. Spring tends to highlight isolation, which is one of the risk factors of suicide.”

The highest month of occurrence ranges according to various research, but the consensus is that springtime is a suicidal peak point. According to the AAS data, June had the highest number of daily suicides in the country, from 1989 to 1996, with a mean number of 88.

“We know spring is the most popular time but don’t really know why for sure,” said Dr. Lucy Davidson, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Emory University.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition related to moods and lack of sunlight. So it would seem spring is the time of year those feeling depressed might feel better. But that's not necessarily so.

“Unfortunately you also have enough energy to kill yourself,” explained Soreff. “When people are coming out of depression they have a higher rate of suicide. You’ve got no energy, no enthusiasm, then you start to get out a little bit, and you see how you now have the energy to mobilize to kill yourself.”

Friends and family of those battling depression or other mental disorders believe spring may be a time when the watchful eye can take a break. But the reality is quite the opposite.

“Many of us have had the experience of knowing someone who is apparently getting better and then commit suicide,” said Soreff. “For every complex problem such as suicide, there is always one direct answer, and that answer is wrong. Suicide is a complex issue.”

Detailed information on the warning signs of suicidal behavior and how to help someone in need can be found on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Web site, http://www.afsp.org or by calling 1-888-333-AFSP. For crisis situations call 1-800-SUICIDE to reach the National Hopeline Network, which provides access to trained telephone counselors 24 hours a day.

The higher spring suicide numbers might surprise those who believe the “holiday blues” around Christmas and New Year's are the worst time of year for the depressed.

In fact, the lowest month total for suicides during the entire year is in December. “It stands alone as a singularly deviant month with the fewest recorded suicides per day,” the AAS found, with 76.3 daily mean suicides during the month.

"I’ve often felt the so-called holiday blues makes an easy topic for the media every year,” said Soreff. “But I have seen a tremendous amount of tenacity in people to get through the holidays and make it work. That is why the rate is at its lowest during December. They may be depressed, but they are determined to make it through the holidays.”