Suicides surge as weather turns
When we think about the prevalence of suicide, there are many factors to consider,
such as mental health diagnoses, life stressors and availability of support. We also
may have an idea of what time of year that most people commit suicide.
When I conduct presentations for the Lou Ruspi Jr. Foundation in a school or community setting, I sometimes pose this question: When do they believe most suicides happen? Most people answer that it is in the winter. I believe many of us can identify with the winter being a time to be indoors, be less social and feel, in a sense, like being in hibernation mode.
The truth is, winter is not the season of the highest rate of suicides. The season that
actually has the most frequent occurrences of suicide is spring. Is it surprising? I certainly was surprised when I first heard that fact. However, the longer that I considered it, the more sense it made to me.
Think about it: In the winter, the weather is cold, there are fewer hours of sunlight, and being out in the elements does not appeal to many people. It is common for some of us to want to stay inside and be more sedentary perhaps, less motivated and more isolated. For people with mental health disorders, who may experience loneliness and isolation on a consistent basis, their desire to stay inside and not be social in the winter does not stand out. Many others, with or without a diagnosis,
prefer to be more isolated as well.
However, in the springtime, the sun shines more brightly and more warmly. For many of us, our mood seems to lift, with the birds singing in the morning and flowers and trees blooming and coming back to life. People around us seem to smile more easily and our outside world becomes more visible. For a person with a mental
health disorder, who in spite of the change in the weather, remains hopeless, helpless, sad and isolated, the outside world is a sharp contrast to how they feel. Their hopelessness may actually increase because they don’t feel the brightening of their mood as others around them do. In that frame of mind, suicide can seem more like a solution to their emotional pain.
I believe that there is hope for any person who considers suicide as an option, not just in the springtime, but all year. To instill that hope in others, those who are most at risk and feel vulnerable and alone, the conversations about mental health and suicide have to continue. The stigma around mental health disorders must be dissolved. We need to remember, as often as possible, that we are all in this together.