This month down at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles is a Broadway show called Dear Evan Hanson which talks about suicide and the effects of depression. One of the songs, “Waving at the Window,” describes well the thoughts of someone struggling with whether they want to go on living: “Give them no reason to stare / No slipping up if you slip away / So I got nothing to share / No, I got nothing to say.”
While it is always important to support those struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, it is often thought that those thinking of “slipping away” choose to attempt it during the winter season and so we are reminded as a culture to keep a special eye out for our loved ones during this time. With all the wonder of the holidays and the cooler weather outside, do people who are already depressed really become the most suicidal in the winter? Bundled up in our homes, often separated from our wider communities, it can be easy to focus on our darker thoughts and think we are alone in this world. For people struggling with suicidal thoughts, though, winter is not the time of year most suicides are committed.
Why are fewer suicides committed in the winter?
During the winter months when we rarely venture out into the cold, it’s more culturally acceptable to stay home and not spend time connecting with those in our wider communities. For those with the predilection to stay home anyway due to depression, they don’t feel as different from their surroundings as other times of the year. In addition, families and friends gather together more often around the holidays and people struggling with depression have more support at these times.
When do the most suicides take place?
It is during the springtime when the flowers are blooming and the weather is starting warm up that most people attempt suicide. Surrounded by new life outside and people’s excitement for warmer weather and a fun summer, a depressed person’s interior world is brought into greater contrast and the difference between the general mood and their own unhappiness is starker. Without the major holidays, family and friends are also less likely to gather around them and a greater sense of isolation can set in.
Check on your loved ones every month of the year
No matter the time of the year, whether the suicide rates go up or down, we need to always be there for people struggling with depression. If you know of someone who you think is weighed down with thoughts of suicide, it’s important for the people around them to help the person seek treatment and to keep an eye out for the following signs that the loved one is thinking of attempting suicide:
- Sudden changes in mood
- Previous suicide attempts
- Knowing another who has committed suicide
- Clinical depression
- Giving away possessions
- Completing end of life paperwork
- Withdrawal from community
- Loss of interest in previously loved activities
- Heightened interest in death
- Help your loved one get support
Helping someone through depression should never be attempted alone. There are numerous groups throughout the Los Angeles area ready to help you find the resources and support you and your loved need. If you know of someone struggling with depression, try any of the groups listed below. As in the lyrics of Dear Evan Hansen, all people need to hear, “’Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand, you can reach, reach out your hand.”
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
AFSP raises awareness, funds scientific research and provides resources and aid to those affected by suicide.
- Los Angeles County Youth Suicide Prevention Project
Providing outreach and support to districts, schools, parents, and high risk youth populations