Ah, spring – it’s a season full of rain showers, beautiful flowers, increasingly warm weather and… suicide? While many people see spring as a time for renewal and growth, research shows that suicide rates in the United States sky rocket during the spring months.
Suicide and Spring Time
According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates in the United States have risen about 24 percent in the past two decades, and April and May are the months in which most suicide attempts occur.
So, what causes these bad feelings in the spring? There are many theories, and most lead back to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Typically, SAD affects people throughout the winter, but it’s often hard to pull yourself out of that funk when spring time rolls around. Not to mention, people become happy in the spring, and seeing everyone around you happy, yet not being happy yourself can be tough to deal with.
Another theory, is Summertime Depression, or becoming depressed late in spring and throughout the summer. Scientists and researchers are still delving into the causes of Summertime Depression, but many believe it can be linked to melatonin production.
Some scientists have even discovered a relationship between high suicide rates and pollen… the more pollen, the higher the suicide rates. What does this mean? Well, they’re still trying to figure that out.
Discovering Depression in Your Patients
As physicians and health care professionals, we have a duty to keep all of our patients safe and healthy, both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, months can go by between appointments, and, on average, we only spend about 15 to 20 minutes with each patient, so detecting depression can be difficult. Here are ways that will help discover depression in patients:
Give every patient a depression screening test or assessment. Most medical facilities do this every so often, and it only takes a few minutes. The assessment usually consists of three to 10 questions, and if answered honestly, can help physicians detect depression in their patients.
Understand the symptoms of depression. Your patient doesn’t have to walk in the door crying to be depressed. Has your patient lost (or gained) a lot of unnecessary weight since their last visit? People suffering from depression tend to binge eat when they are feeling sad, or not eat much at all. Understanding the symptoms of depression will help you recognize it.
Simply ask your patient if he or she is feeling depressed. This sounds obvious, but many people don’t recognize depression within themselves until someone else does. They may pass it off as simply not being happy, not understanding that there is a problem. Talking to your patients about depression can truly do wonders.
Understand statistics and stereotypes. People ages 18 to 29 are the most likely to commit suicide, and almost 80 percent of all suicide attempts are by men. Understanding these facts will help you assess the likelihood that a patient is depressed or may become depressed.
Unfortunately, there’s no blood test or body scan that can tell us if an individual is depressed, so the best thing you can do for your patients is to become educated on the statistics, signs and symptoms of depression, and simply talk to them.