We have arrived at riskiest time of year for suicide

Padraig O’Morain: Image of summer as season of happiness and bliss doesn’t hold true

With the arrival of brighter, longer days we have also arrived at the riskiest time of year for suicide. Nobody is quite sure why this should be. The corresponding brightening of the day in Australia and New Zealand in November and December also sees a rise in suicide rates.

In the northern hemisphere, April, May and June are dangerous months and anybody who suffers from suicidal thoughts needs to take special care of themselves during that time.

The terrible affliction of suicide is, I think it is worth saying, unusual in the population in general. But the loss of each life is a shocking loss to the human family and especially to the biological families and the friends of those who die. It is also an immeasurably sad end to the lives of those who die by their own hand.

The fall in mood is seasonal but it might not feel that way to you, and to get through it, you may need help

Some of those who have studied suicide would say that the person who is suicidal is ambivalent. They don’t necessarily want to die but their thinking has become so distorted that they see it as the only way out. One can see that the higher risk of suicide at this time of year could tip the scales in a tragic direction.


So if you have been having suicidal thoughts, you need to watch out for the additional danger at this time in particular and to seek help.

Many theories have been put forward to try to explain this time-of-year phenomenon. If we can understand it, maybe we can do something about it. Perhaps a person who has been robbed of energy by depression in the winter may gain enough motivation in the summer to take their own life. That's what psychiatrist Dr Adam Kaplin at Johns Hopkins University in the United States says, according to an interview on the university website.

Or could it have something to do with an increase in allergies at this time of year? “Overwhelming evidence suggests that inflammation from various sources, including allergic reactions, can cause or worsen depression,” he said.

According to Prof Sandra Lin, an allergy specialist at the university, people who have rhinitis, characterised by a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing and post-nasal drip, have a higher chance of depression than those who do not. That’s not something we think about when we go around suffering the summer sniffles which can seem more like a nuisance than anything else. They also are characterised by inflammation.

All of this is by way of saying there isn’t something exceptionally wrong with you if you tend to feel depressed during the summer months. It is part of a phenomenon that we do not understand. At such a time we need to take better care of ourselves. I find my mood dips every year from around the start of April to about the start of September. Luckily for me I don’t fall into depression. It’s more of a nuisance than anything else.

Those for whom the fall in mood is deep need to look out for their mental health during that time, to seek such help as they need and to talk to somebody. Remember, the fall is seasonal but it might not feel that way to you, and to get through it, you may need help.

The arrival of this annual slump with its fatal consequences for some people and for those who survive them is an occurrence we need to be aware of. My impression is that the public at large is not very aware of the seasonal effect and it needs more attention.The image we are given of summer equalling months of sunshine and bliss doesn’t hold true.

Meanwhile, remember that the Samaritans in Ireland have more than 2,000 volunteers ready to listen and help, and their helpline is 116 123. You’ll also find a service (text50808.ie) aimed mainly at young people by texting 50808 or 086 1800 280 and you can message back and forth with a trained volunteer.