I was listening to a speaker yesterday and she brought up the old saw that there is a peak of suicides between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It is one of those statements that seems to make sense logically, but is nonetheless not true.
Suicide is amongst the leading causes of death in our country and every one is a tragedy (although I am not sure that the latter is always true and I will come back to that shortly). While we may be more acutely aware of the tragedy of suicide during this holiday stretch, the incidence of suicide actually peaks in the spring.
I thought I’d take this opportunity to mention just a few other facts about suicide. First, we do not die by suicide at the depths of our personal darkness, but as the energy returns to us we can then act on the thoughts that we had at our darkest. That explains why people “seem better, seem OK” just before they take their own life. It may also explain why suicide peaks in the spring, the renewal of our world returns the energy to act. It also explains why someone who has started on medication for their depression is at increased risk of death by suicide. It is not the medication itself, but the fact that it has lifted them out of the “goo” of depression to the point that they can now act.
I’d also like to mention that there are considered to be 3 categories of suicide. The first accompanies the deep, existential pain of depression. That feeling that the world would be better off with out us or that we would be better off without the world, the only resolution for our pain. The first category of death by suicide accompanies that severe, clinical depression. The heavy blanket sensation that life can get no better. The second category is situational, e.g. accompanying a loss of job and that blow to our identity or a broken relationship. The third category is the rational choice, this usually accompanies the knowledge that you are terminally ill and that your death is imminent or the process will be unbearable for you. The last is the category in which I am not certain that the death is totally a tragedy, although it will always be for the survivors. also, I would note as well that the first 2 categories are at times mixed and synergistic in being a driver toward suicide.
What to do at this time of year, or at any time, when encountering someone with thoughts of suicide. Push them to get help, at the very least to talk to 1-800-suicide or visit their website (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org). Get them to pause and think as well. There are often options that they do not see at first. Help them expand their thoughts, of possibilities and consequences, but, foremost, get them to professional help.