To be perfectly honest, nobody’s really sure why suicide rates rise in the spring. There are some theories out there as to why suicide has a spike in spring and, to a lesser extent, in the fall. Popular belief is that more people commit suicide around Christmas holidays, and while there is more suicidal activity and hospitalizations during December than other winter months, the rise is still no match for what is seen in Spring. Scientists and researchers have a few theories, which are a mixture of hormone fluctuations and psychological envy and despair. This is not new information — both have long been named as depression and suicide triggers. However, some things that are happening in the spring may cause a different rise or influx in certain hormones and bad feelings.
In the winter, everybody’s inside and not doing a whole lot of anything, unless they ski or snowboard. When warmer months arrive, social media feeds are full of three things that clinically depressed people may greatly miss: times spent with friends, energy to go on hikes and attend family get-togethers, and money for fancy and exciting vacations. Coupled with the fact that the hours of sunlight are longer, melatonin levels may have some role in giving severely depressed people enough energy to commit suicide.
According to Fox News, Dr. Michelle Riba explains how these things come together to invoke active suicidal tendencies.
“We don’t really know why. It may be hormonal for women, and there are theories related to melatonin production, but we’re not sure. People go on vacations, and some groups may be disbanding for the season, so there may be less structure and a sense of support in place. You wish well for everybody but sometimes you can experience jealousy and envy when you see these pictures of vacations and happy families. Particularly if you’re experiencing money challenges or a bad break-up.”
A 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry correlated that as hours of sunlight increased, so did the risk of suicide. Harvard psychology professor Matthew Nock explains why this is, according to Fox.
“The authors speculate that sunlight could boost energy and motivation, thus giving people who are depressed the ability to take action and make a suicide attempt.”
Interestingly enough, suicide rates are higher on days of high pollen counts — though nobody knows why. It’s true that allergies make people feel bad, but researchers feel there’s a much more complex reason — pollen may activate inflammatory markers in allergic people, therefore causing inflammation in their central nervous system. The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord, so there may be a direct correlation between inflammation and suicidal thoughts.
Riba said that people may be less likely to understand what is happening to them in the spring, because we aren’t socialized to associate springtime with depression.
“If you think you might at risk for depression, keep a journal of your feelings. Record things like mood, changes in appetite, sleep issues, concentration, and energy problems, and feelings like hopelessness and worthlessness. If you consistently feel this way for two weeks or more, see your doctor. It may be depression, but other medical issues (like a low thyroid, for example) can cause similar symptoms, and it’s best for your doctor to rule those out. A lot of times people don’t really know what they’re experiencing is depression. You just might not feel well and not understand why. People think that something had to have happened to have depression, or that you can will yourself out of it, but that’s not true. It’s a biological process—and there shouldn’t be any stigma associated with taking care of yourself.”
[Photo by Carnival Cruise Line / Getty Images]