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Spring Sees High Suicide Rates

Exponent article by Dr Brian Kassarr
Counseling & Psychological Services

Surprisingly, the spring season sees the highest number of completed suicides. According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicides occur most frequently between the months of March and August, with about 86 per day. This dispels the common belief that suicides occur predominantly during the winter months and holiday season.

A few theories try to explain this paradox: one is that a depressed person becomes more depressed and hopeless when surrounded by the symbolic "rebirth" that comes with spring. Someone who is depressed may not be able to enjoy the weather or participate in relationships or outdoor activities, which may further their sense of sadness or isolation.

Those who attempt or commit suicide often believe that it is the only solution to overwhelming feelings or circumstances. They may not necessarily want to die, and may even be ambivalent about life and death. Precipitants to suicide vary greatly depending on the indivudual: relationship break-ups, perceived failures at work or school, long-standing depression or health problems, grief/loss, and financial difficulties are just a few examples. People who consider suicide often feel lonely, hopeless, isolated, helpless or intensely sad.

Suicide accounts for approximately 30,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, surpassing the homicide rate. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those aged 15-24, and this number has increased by 300% in the last 30 years. Females attempt suicide more, but the male suicide rate is 3-5 times higher since men typically choose more violent means. Suicides among gay and lesbian youth are 2-3 times higher than that of their peers. White males have the highest suicide rates, particularly among the elderly.

Factors that contribute to suicide risk include: a history of suicide attempts, those with chronic depression or other mental illness, impulsive behavior, substance abuse, those who own firearms or have access to other lethal means (weapons, drugs, etc). Oftentimes a person talks about suicide before attempting: this is one of the biggest warning signs. Talking about hurting/killing themselves, wishing they weren't here any more, or saying that things would be better if they were dead often precede suicide attempts. Other warning signs include buying a weapon, stockpiling drugs or medication, saying goodbyes, giving away possessions, or getting their affairs in order. If someone indicates they have a plan or intent, this is a major warning sign and increases their risk.

If someone you know is voicing suicidal thoughts, you may be able to help. If they are in immediate danger of harming themselves, GET HELP. Don't worry about risking your friendship or getting your friend in trouble; the most important thing at that moment is keeping them alive. Call someone who is trained to help: an RA or RD, the campus police, the counseling center, or 911.

If your friend is not in imminent risk, talking to them can be helpful. Let them know you care and are concerned for their safety, and try to get them to talk to a counselor or healthcare professional. Don't be afraid to talk about suicide; this will not "make them do it." Don't try to logically talk the person out of suicide, but do try to help them find other solutions and see the temporary nature of their crisis. If you can, avoid leaving a suicidal person alone, and try to make sure they don't have access to drugs, alcohol, or a way to harm themselves. Be supportive and caring, but remember that you are not a trained professional. Do what you can in the moment, but make sure to refer them to someone who is trained to help.

If you have suicidal thoughts or feelings, get help. There are a number of resources on campus and in the community that you can utilize before taking a permanent step to end what may be a temporary problem.

If your or a friend is in an immediate crisis, you can call 911, the campus police at 2121, the Bozeman Crisis Line at 586-3333, or a national suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE. If you live on campus you can also contact your RA or RD; they're trained to help and to mobilize other resources. If your crisis is not immediate but you still want help, Counseling & Psychological Services on campus provides free and confidential counseling, as well as consultation in how to recognize and respond to suicidal crises. The website www.afsp.org also provides more detailed information about suicide.

View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 12/17/08
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