The Sun Is Shining


I found this interesting article on the USA Today website and wanted to share it with all of you…

The sun is shining. Flowers are blooming. It’s May, and many of us feel great.

But the thoughts of some vulnerable people grow dark at this seemingly bright time of year. In fact, if there is a season for suicide, springtime is it.

“It’s a new beginning, but some people don’t feel that new beginning,” says Jerry Reed, executive director of the Suicide Prevention Action Network.

Despite popular myths that suicides peak in the winter, particularly around the holidays, close observers have long noticed that suicides actually rise with the return of warmer, longer days, says Richard McCleary, a researcher at the University of California-Irvine.

Aristotle believed suicidal thoughts arose from overheated brains, McCleary says. More modern thinkers offer other biological or social explanations but still see the pattern — at least in some places and among some people.

In one study of 28 countries, McCleary and colleagues found that, overall, suicide deaths were lowest in winter and highest in spring. They reached a peak in May in the Northern Hemisphere.

But the researchers found that the peak existed only in temperate climates — places with distinct seasonal changes in weather. The link was strongest in agricultural societies and weakest in urban areas.

In a separate study of 357,393 suicide deaths in the USA from 1973 to 1985, McCleary found:

•The fewest suicides occurred in December. The most occurred in March, April and May.

•The spring peaks were mostly the results of suicides among males.

•Men older than 80 were at the most pronounced increased springtime risk.

•Boys under 16 showed a reversed pattern: They were most likely to kill themselves in the winter.

McCleary theorizes that vulnerable, isolated people with weak social ties — such as many elderly men — get left out of the spring upswing in social activity. “Maybe you visit your grandparents in winter,” he says. “But you don’t visit them in the spring and summer because you’ve got so many other things to do.”

Psychiatrist Eric Caine of the University of Rochester Medical Center says most people who attempt suicide have long-standing mental health problems that play roles. But springtime changes may be a trigger for some, he says.

For example, he says, “we know there are some people with bipolar disorder who get very energized in the spring.” Some of those still-distressed people may use their renewed vigor to plan and carry out a suicide, he says.

Still, suicide can happen in any month. “We lose 32,000 people a year, and those losses are spread throughout the year,” Reed says.

In fact, in a report in April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there was little month-to-month variation in nearly 9,000 suicide deaths reported in 16 (not necessarily representative) states in 2005. The numbers did, however, hint at a drop in winter and a rise in spring.

The bottom line, Reed says, is that some people are at a very low point and need the help of loved ones, friends and professionals right now — no matter what the calendar says or how pleasant the weather seems.

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