Spring. There’s much to love about the approaching season. However, spring delivers unpredictable weather, not unlike the psychological impact for some.
Spring is not the best of seasons.
Cold and flu are two good reasons;
wind and rain and other sorrow,
warm today and cold tomorrow.
This is probably not what you expected. Do you know how long I searched for a gloomy quote on spring? Even when I googled such – they are not easy to find! Who doesn’t like spring (right)? Perhaps E.E. Cummings said it best (in 100 Selected Poems):
“Always it’s Spring)and everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves.”
(No, that is not an error – “Spring)and” – E.E. Cummings is known to experiment with form, punctuation, spelling, and syntax!)
Spring – A Romanticized Notion
Spring is romanticized. It is the gateway to summer (the end of winter), spring is rebirth, brings love, and renewed hope…
And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Complete Poems
But – It’s Not All Flowers and Sunshine!
In addition to the emerging of flowers and sunshine, spring also brings the largest surge in suicides throughout the year. The incidence of suicide generally runs 10 to 25 percent above the annual average and 20 to 50 percent above the lows seen in February.
Naturally we’re curious as to why. Several theories and observations account for this, as well as a reminder that suicide is complex and there is no one trigger. The theory I found most intriguing was the “broken promise effect” – the crushing disappointment that spring fails to bring relief to a suffering and once hopeful individual. Other frequently identified causes include:
- Warmer weather – increasing the pressure for social interaction. Winter promotes an “emotional hibernation” of sorts. We cocoon ourselves in a warm blanket in front of a fire, binge-watch Netflix, and sleep more. When spring weather and the romanticized notion of spring makes activity and connections both desired and possible… the pain of social disconnection can take root.
- Warmer weather – increasing the rate of inflammatory responses inflicted by seasonal allergies. About 40-million Americans suffer from indoor-outdoor allergies experiencing wheezing, hives, runny noses, and itchy eyes that come with this changing season. This affects quality of sleep and wakeful comfort.
- Warmer weather – increasing manic behavior. Psychiatrists have observed that for patients with bipolar disorder and depression, spring can create a manic agitation amplifying suicidal behavior.
Preparing for Spring
By now, you’re probably wondering if you should move somewhere without the warmer weather (introduced by the changing seasons).
Dr. Thomas Joiner, Bright-Burton Professor of Psychology and nationally recognized researcher in suicidology, suggested an approach to cope through his study into “Why people die by suicide.”
He believes suicide is preventable and encourages the use of a five-part recipe to overcome the springtime-blues scenario you or a loved one may soon experience.
1. Wake up and get out of bed at the same time every morning – and no naps!
2. Whatever the weather, venture outside and soak up some morning sun for 10-15 minutes (or sun lamp, *smile*).
3. Exercise daily (a 20-minute walk is appropriate).
4. Connect with nature (appreciate and feel a part of something bigger than yourself – take a hike, play with your pet, or listen to the sounds of a river are all great examples).
5. Integrate with other people for a sense of connection (this could be as simple as volunteering with a local non-profit).
Spring Too, Shall Pass
Especially in the case of the springtime surge of suicides, please keep in mind, suicide is a permanent solution to this temporary problem. Rates fall slightly throughout the summer before a steep decline in winter. As a community of the human spirit, let’s protect each other from this threatening trend.
You can begin now, forward this blog to a friend.
If these life-style changes are not improving your mood to the extent desired and/or your symptoms of depression have lasted more than two weeks, a visit with your physician or a mental health professional to explore talk therapy and the wide-array of antidepressants or other forms of treatment should be made.
Suicide is Preventable
From year to year each of us is challenged with changing risk factors, making us more susceptible to our shifting environment, mental health, mood swings, and broken promises that spring can bring. Likewise, the change of season is proof that change is possible (and inevitable), assuring us that the challenges we face today will resolve with time, replaced by new opportunities and moments of joy.
Prepare now! Download and create your own personal “Suicide Safety Plan” and then share a copy with one or more connections, including your physician, mental health professional, spouse, faith leader, friend, or anyone else able to help you follow your “plan for life.” Suicide is absolutely preventable, both in action and death. Preparing for moments or days that may not bring your mind peace, will give you a significant advantage in coping and thriving through and beyond suicidal thoughts, to welcome the next season of change.
Co-written by: Deeatra K and Michelle Cherney