Content note: this post talks about suicide in general terms.
There is a common misconception that suicide behaviors spike around the holiday season in December. Although people who experience suicidal ideation might need support at any time during the year, in the northern hemisphere of the world, we actually see this surge happen around March.
When I tell people this fact, I am often met with confusion. March is a beautiful month! The weather finally gets nicer, the snow starts melting, and the sun finally stays up past 5:00 pm. Wouldn’t people feel better around this time?
To understand the connection, we need to understand how depression zaps energy. Fatigue is a huge weight that many people with depression carry, and it makes it difficult to work, socialize, or even complete basic self-care tasks. Basically, someone who is experiencing significant depressive symptoms can’t do very much.
Someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts but is also exhausted might not have the energy to act on those thoughts. Passive suicidal ideation can be like thinking about taking a trip: I might not have the resources to actually plan and take the trip, but I wouldn’t be upset if I woke up tomorrow and was somewhere else. But if I am not getting support for those thoughts, and I suddenly find myself with more energy, it could be tempting to act on them.
When the sun stays up longer and the days get nicer, people who have been experiencing depression during the winter (due to a seasonal pattern or for another reason), someone who was passively suicidal might suddenly find themselves with the energy or motivation to act on those thoughts.
This is something for mental health professionals to be aware of so that we can monitor for these symptoms, but it’s also important for the general public to be aware of this pattern. We rely on our brains to give us information about the world, so if your brain is telling you that you should die, it can be tempting to believe this. The more you know about the ways your brain might be wrong, the more you can question this if it happens instead of acting on that thought.
If you’re having suicidal thoughts or worried about someone else, please call Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They also offer chat-based services here if you are more comfortable with that form of communication.