Despite our popular cultural myth that suicide goes up along with the Christmas trees and tinsel, this is not actually true. Contrary to the images of George on the bridge in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” during the holidays when friends and family gather closer together, suicide actually drops to its lowest point all year. This may be because hibernating away at home during the winter months is more socially acceptable or that we have less energy to carry out plans while it’s cold and bleak outside.
When do suicides go up?
The time of year when suicide peaks is actually in the spring and early summer. Though experts aren’t entirely sure why this is, they suspect it’s because of the greater disparity between the new life all around us and the dark thoughts of hopelessness running through the minds of those who struggle with thoughts of suicide. Feeling like there is no future when one is surrounded by new growth can bring our own feelings into greater clarity. As the sun comes out and the weather warms, we also experience more energy and determination some may use to carry out the suicidal thoughts they’ve harbored through cooler months.
During the spring months, pollen counts also climb as plants bloom, biologically altering the moods of those who are prone to such alterations. It may exasperate the mood swings people already experience, perhaps enough to push those experiencing mental disorders into greater disconnection and despair.
Why is this myth dangerous?
The danger of this myth that suicides go up in the winter is we are focused on prevention during the time of year when suicides actually drop and neglect to reach out to other people during the warmer spring months when they go up. Though there isn’t one reason people commit suicide, a combination of weather and altered social experiences can certainly alter one’s inclination and we need to be focused on reaching out to others all year round.
If you see someone experiencing these symptoms, they are at great risk for suicide:
- Giving away their possessions
- Talking and thinking about death a lot
- Loss of interest in life
- Clinical depression
- History of suicide attempts
- Sudden changes in mood
- Putting their affairs in order
- Withdrawal from friends and family
There are many hotlines, support groups, and counselors ready to help those struggling with thoughts of suicide and their friends and family. If you need support, please call or text one of these numbers:
Fulton County Behavioral Access & Information Line
(404) 612-1211 (M-F 8:30-5pm)
Access line to learn how to handle mental health situations and get referrals to mental health services
Georgia Crisis & Access Line
For Georgia residents wanting access to suicide prevention care
Crisis Text Line
Text START to 741-741
24/7 volunteer-led text support for people in crisis