Suicide rates bump in spring, after holidays

Suicide is a major health concern for the United States, and a leading cause of death amongst men and women. An entire industry exists to treat illnesses prone to the risks of suicide and yet it still stands as a major threat.

This can be due to a lot of variable factors, but, Belinda Rose, of Compass Community Health, focuses on this topic as a major part of her profession.

“According to the Ohio Department of Health, between 2015-2019 there were 8,743 suicide deaths in Ohio (14.7 per 100,000 people in the population) with 64 being in Scioto County (17.2 per 100,000 people in the population),” cited Rose. “Suicide is calculated by the persons county of residence, not where they committed suicide.”

There is a common misconception about suicide rates being highest in December that many people cling to and tend to repeat. By examining data and speaking to professionals in the mental health field, it is obvious that there are other months that suicide awareness needs to truly come from. While most of those tend to be in the spring, it is important to examine the bump in suicide rates that occur this time of year in January.

According to the CDC and an Annenberg Public Policy Center study, December actually has the lowest suicide attempts with 85.5 daily attempts, not the highest. However, that number has the highest jump, which sits at a 91.9 daily attempt rate in January.

Rose was approached about seasonal depression, and she used studies to back up the phenomenon.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) “temporary feelings of depression and anxiety during the holiday season (Holiday Blues) happens to many people. In a 2015 survey, 64% of people polled said they had experienced holiday blues and 24% said the holidays affect them a lot.

“Extra stress, unrealistic expectations or even sentimental memories that accompany the season can be a catalyst for the holiday blues,” Rose cited. “Some can be at risk for feelings of loneliness, sadness, fatigue, tension and a sense of loss.”

A lot of seasonal factors can trigger the holiday blues such as less sunlight, changes in your diet or routine, alcohol at parties, over-commercialization, or the inability to be with friends or family. These are all factors that can seriously affect your mood.

Symptoms of Holiday Blues are unlike Major Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Holiday Blues symptoms are temporary while Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms start in the fall and continue through the winter months. Major Depressive Disorder can occur at any time during the year and typically lasts for long periods of time.

Suicide numbers drop in February, but continue to climb in the spring, where it peaks in May at 97.8 percent.

Suicide is a serious epidemic in the United States, where, according to the CDC, 45,979 people died by suicide in 2020, which is 1 death every 11 minutes. That puts suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

While the suicide rate is high, the rate of people who considered suicide is far greater. With an expected 12.2 million seriously considering it, 3.2 million making a plan, and 1.2 million making an attempt.

In addition, the CDC reports that there are four hospitalizations for every suicide attempt, eight emergency room visits related to suicide, 27 self-reported suicide attempts, and 275 people who considered suicide.

Men are also four times more likely to die by suicide.

According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, reported by emedicinehealth.com, it isn’t fully understood why spring holds the highest suicide death, but there are many theories. Some theories include a greater population of people living with seasonal depression and a sense of comfort in not being alone, Bipolar disorder manic behaviors spiking in the spring, an emotional and social ‘hibernation’ period in the spring, and even seasonal allergy and air quality theories.

“Studies have been conducted regarding why suicide events are more frequent in spring, but results have been inconsistent. People have theorized that things like having Bipolar Disorder increases suicide risk due to an increase in manic symptoms when the weather starts to improve. There is evidence that suggests Bipolar Disorder is certainly worse in the spring,” Rose explained. “Some theorize people tend to hibernate in the winter and warm weather brings about the feeling of being forced to engage in social interaction and as social interaction increases disappointments regarding those same social interactions increase, contributing to people no longer wanting to live.”

Of course there are other theories that Rose also expanded on.

“Others theorize it could be due to inflammation caused by allergens which increase in the spring,” Rose stated. “Mood disorders have long been associated with Inflammation. There is also a theory that warmer weather contributes to poor air quality causing an increase in depression and suicide.”

While, we are still in a month that notices a bump in suicide activity, it is important to reach out if you feel like you need support. One option is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988.

This is part one in a two-part series. Next week, Rose will discuss what to look out for in someone considering suicide, risk factors, and resources for those considering suicide.

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved