Archive for December, 2013

When is the Highest Risk Time for Death By Suicide?

Many people believe that the holiday season is a time when there is a higher rate of death by suicide.  The reality, however, is that this is largely an urban myth that is based on movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, which is based on a belief that people get more depressed around the holidays.

An experienced suicide attorney in Dallas knows that the time of the year has some impact on predicting whether someone is likely to die by suicide. However, a person’s own actions and behaviors are the biggest signs when someone is considering death by suicide. Thus, while it is important to know when the highest risk times are for fatalities caused by suicide, it is most important to know what red flags to watch out for at any time of the year.

The Highest Risks of Death by Suicide

Contrary to popular belief, the month of November and the month of December actually have the lowest suicide rates of any months of the year. Scientific American reports that the lower rates over the course of these two months can be partly explained by the fact that there is usually increased emotional and familial support available during holiday times as families and friends come together more often around this time of year. This feeling of goodwill and the benefits that can come from the added support during the holidays can result in a phenomenon called a “depressive calm” that lasts through the winter.

Once the holiday season is over, however, and the months of spring approach, the risk of suicide goes up significantly as the “depressive calm” gives way to an “energized despair.” As a result, the highest rate of deaths by suicide actually occurs during the springtime.

The phenomenon of higher suicide fatalities in spring was first observed in 1897 and has persisted through to this date. Data shows that getting more sunshine, a change to warmer temperatures, allergens and viruses, inflammation, extra vitamin D and melatonin can all jump-start an energized despair that can prompt suicidal thoughts. As Scientific America explains: “as winter thaws into spring, there is the hope for renewal that if not delivered can set into motion agitation and despair.”

Watching for Signs

Although the holidays may not be the highest-risk time, an average of 105 people die by suicide each day in the United States. This means that anyone could experience the loss of a family member at any time. Watching for warning signs and taking action to provide help can be the best way to reduce the chances of death by suicide. You can watch for the “energized despair” that could be experienced in early spring, and you can also watch for:

  • A sense of perceived burdensomeness to family, friends and people considered significant.
  • A feeling of thwarted belongingness.
  • An acquired capability for self-harm.
  • A preoccupation with death.
  • A focus on tying up loose ends and getting affairs in order.
  • Sudden calm after a period of agitation or depression.
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or activities.
  • Self-destructive behavior.
  • Comments like “you would be better off without me, ”I just need to disappear,”  or I am so sorry for making your life miserable.”  These comments in conjunction with sadness and depression require further inquiry

Family members and mental health professionals should all be on the lookout for these indicators that someone is at risk of dying by suicide.  A very helpful book for detecting a suicidal family member and taking action to prevent suicide is The Suicide Lawyers: Exposing Lethal Secrets, by C.C. Risenhoover.  The author interviews Skip Simpson who has seen suicide from every angle.  It is an easy read and can prevent a loved one from an attempted suicide.

If you lost a loved one to suicide, contact a suicide attorney in Dallas at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call  214-618-8222.