Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Being A Good Friend Reminder: Suicide Rates Go Up In Spring

So, there’s this myth about suicide– and the myth is that depressed or grieving people who contemplate suicide are most at risk around the holidays.

Turns out, that’s not accurate– the annual suicide rate actually begins to spike right now, with the bloom of spring. It may seem counterintuitive based on what we’ve been taught, but it’s true.

Holidays can actually give one hope, purpose, reason, and even a distraction. For many families, even if there is a lack of closeness during the year, holidays are a time where people come together and celebrate.

When you’re severely depressed it can be a welcome reprieve, even if suicide is in the back of your mind and it feels like you’re on a goodbye tour of your life. Those goodbye tours can be sad and difficult, but they at least give you an inner reason to live.

After the holidays, it can be easy to sleep the dark winter away. The days are super short, so while others lament the sun setting at 4:00 in the afternoon, one who is depressed and contemplating suicide is secretly relieved– the sunset means the day is almost over, and you made it.

But then spring comes.

The world is spinning- you can’t make it stop, you can’t slow it down. No matter what you do, the snow with thaw.

As the last snow retreats until another season, it’s as if the whole world comes alive again, budding and teeming with new life.

And then the days get longer again– much longer– and this is hard. It means there’s more hours you need to get through. More time you need to fill. Whereas in winter making it to 5:00pm makes one feel like they made it through the whole day, by June making it to 5:00pm feels like there’s so much day to still get through.

The birds chirp. The rays of the sun turn warm. Outside there is the hustle and bustle of happiness and a new season starting over… whereas in winter the world reflected what one felt on the inside, the world of spring is a painful reminder that the world feels happy and alive, but you don’t.

And so you look around at a year starting all over, and you’re like, “F#$@%&…. I just can’t.”

When life feels unbearable, spring makes everything worse– and that’s when a suicidal person is most at risk. Many of them go unnoticed, as those around them who believe the myth of higher suicide rates at Christmas, are either tempted to think the coast is clear, or simply get caught up with the excitement of a new year and forget they have someone in their life who might not be doing so well.

So, what to do?

First, if you’re depressed or grieving and are considering suicide, PLEASE reach out to someone. Anyone. I know it’s hard, that it’s scary, that it feels like more energy than you have, but please do it. Tell someone. Call a friend. Or, call the suicide prevention hotline, open 24 hours a day, at 1-800-273-8255.

If you know someone in your life who is struggling, please don’t forget them in the spring. Yes, it’s great that you thought of them over the holidays, but right now is when you really need to be a friend. Reach out to them, knowing that they might not have the energy to reach out to you– don’t take it personally if you haven’t heard from them since Christmas. They just haven’t had the mental energy to do it.

Sit with them. Talk to them. As probing questions.

Directly ask them if they’ve been thinking of suicide.

One of the other myths about suicide is that bringing the topic up will put the idea in their head– not true. Bringing it up, and not acting shocked when they admit it’s been on their mind, is freeing and de-stigmatizing. It can give permission to talk freely about their emotions and thoughts, without feeling embarrassed or shamed for thinking about suicide. Let’s be honest: thinking about suicide isn’t an abnormal human experience, and being reminded of that is helpful instead of harmful.

Work with them to make a plan to get help and stay safe. Sure, you’re not a case manager, but you can be a good friend. Most especially if they are obviously unsafe– it’s better to have a friend who is temporarily mad at you for making a phone call they didn’t want you to make, than it is to have a dead friend.

(If you’re a pastor or leader of any sort dealing with a population prone to depression and suicidal tendencies– which is every population, btw– get smart on suicide prevention. A book I highly recommend is Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains, and Pastoral Counselors, by Dr. Karen Mason.)

I think most friends want to help, and that the biggest reason they don’t is because they feel ill-equipped– and that belief can be deadly.

You don’t have to be a doctor or therapist to successfully intervene and help save someone’s life– you just have to be available and willing to do something.

Anything.

In life and death decisions, the worst thing you can do is do nothing.

So, you want to be a good friend to that depressed or grieving person in your life?

Great.

You can start that by realizing this is the time of year their struggle can be the most difficult, and that this season might be when they need you most. Loving them well, right now, might just mean they’ll see a future spring when their world will finally bloom with hope again.

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Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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  • I am bipolar 2 that means I’ve been depressed since I was 13 years old. Depression is just a fraction of my problem. the other challenges in my life are that I was sexually molested at age 9, I have daily flashbacks. I have other traumas bad enough to give me PTSD. additionally I have learning disabilities that have been significant barriers to my becoming socialized. getting an education that might have allowed me to be independent financially has been problematic. I have known and lived in poverty my whole life. I began to become fully cognizant of my situation in early adulthood as I experienced my first onset of bipolar 2 depression. By then I was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I would caution your readers that there are certain sufferers and survivors of depression that don’t have friends and family that care about them. My whole family is suffering from mental illness. mostly they’re depressed. Now that I’m 65 most of them have passed Beyond this Vale of Tears. To be perfectly honest with you I confess that I am antisocial. I thank God that at least I’m an alcoholic!! If I wasn’t an alcoholic I would never have discovered the 12-step program. It literally saved my life and I would never have known love and connection except that I lost everything to this hideous dual diagnosis!! In spite of my being antisocial I have made a few friends. I hate it when, adding to my discomfort with being one down in a social situation where someone, whom I cannot assure myself that they have taken care of their own depression issues, may or may not have empathy for my situation, asks me if I’m depressed. To be honest I am paranoid!! I have been abused and patronized because my depression is so physically obvious. Most people don’t want to hear this about other people who have disabilities. This doesn’t mean however that God has forsaken me. I have long since given up the comfort of thinking I could kill myself and that a successful suicide excuses me of the responsibility of my task of finding meaning in life. God is such a great God!! He made a way for me when there was no way. What’s stopped me me from committing suicide is the intervention of the Holy Spirit and, occasionally, a human intervention usually by somebody as bad off as me but not quite ready to pulled the plug on themselves. Only those ones who have walked in my shoes can know what the ebb and flow of Hope is like for one who is chronically depressed.
    //if you haven’t heard from them since Christmas. They just haven’t had the mental energy to do it.
    Sit with them. Talk to them. Ask probing questions.
    Directly ask them if they’ve been thinking of suicide.//
    I would say if you consider yourself to be somewhat normal and stable emotionally and you know someone who may have recently lost a loved one, or you may have some reason to know for a fact what is triggering their depression then by all means ask those probing questions. What would I have like to have happened for me to overcome my depression? That may be the wrong question to ask. I know this might sound strange. Depression, for some of us, is a calling, a vocation. If one such as I can survive it others have also in my humble opinion. And we have known the full range of the hideousness of Life On Life’s terms as chronic depressives (and possibly addicts as well). In the 12-step program I follow all of this is great news for those who suffer the depth of depression I have known. Perhaps my life has meaning because I can speak to that of God in someone who suffers as I do. In such a situation one who has worked through their material has the depth of empathy that can reach pain of such intensity. I have had many Divine appointments where I felt the Holy Spirit give me the words to speak to someone at the point of death.
    //Bringing it up, and not acting shocked when they admit it’s been on their mind, is freeing and de-stigmatizing. It can give permission to talk freely about their emotions and thoughts, without feeling embarrassed or shamed for thinking about suicide.//
    There are a lot of assumptions in this statement. I have known the depth of depression where I am thinking of myself as a dead person, completely disconnected from society and social engagements and therefore extremely jealous of the living who experience happiness, who move freely in life and have normal balanced emotions. Some of the reactions of the extremely depressed will be not as you would wish. You may be surprised and appalled if they reject you and become extremely angry at you!!
    //be available and willing to do something.//
    Sometimes all you can do is witness someone’s pain and leave it to God. Stay in communication with God and he will show You, by way of the Holy Spirit, what you can do.
    //You can start that by realizing this is the time of year their struggle can be the most difficult, and that this season might be when they need you most.// what and how someone who’s depressed needs from you is extremely problematic and there are no easy answers. Don’t expect there to be!!

    • Well some people struggle even when they have a great childhood and no trauma.I appreciate you sharing your point of view and where you are coming from. My son, 26 year old just committed suicide. He was brilliant well-loved with a great childhood. He was a world Traveler and accomplished more in his life than most of us will. I always thought he was on the high functioning autistic side…Self-taught computer coding genius. Although he seemed to struggle with long-term close relationships he seemed to be so confident and have no trouble being in the Limelight in acting and plays and parties but I realize now a lot of that was because he was just a good actor. When he went off to travel the world to Mexico India Japan Australia, he became very socially withdrawn. He grew his hair out and around us he was distant, blank! l think he finally realized who he was. It was like once the realization that everything is fake sunk in, he couldn’t handle the corruption and the sadness. He helped so many people and was a kind soul, sensitive. He was a big believer in psychotropic drugs to help open up his mind. Turns out it wasn’t such a good idea for people that may have been manic depressive or bipolar, he’s never been diagnosed with that but looking back I think he probably had that. He ended up going into a persistent psychosis, after some bad drugs in Thailand and was hearing voices. I dont know anything! I’m guessing he was probably struggling with this for a while and he didn’t reach out and ask for help. He kept telling us he was totally fine. He accidentally called his sister when in a delusion so we knew he was in trouble and we flew down to Thailand to bring him home. He didn’t make it. He jumped off a high ledge and died but I think he found comfort knowing his parents were there to bring his body home. I wish I would have known he was suffering I wish I would have said something when he started changing and withdrawing, I just thought it was a normal young man thing trying to find out who he was. How can I turn this tragedy in to something good? What’s the best way to help others? Thank you for the article as it points out some good tips and also the comments.

      • //How can I turn this tragedy in to something good? What’s the best way to help others?//
        MHO you are asking the right questions! One of my best friends had a son very like yours I think. His suicide changed their whole family!! Everyone in that family has become an advocate for Humane treatment of mentally ill and homeless people. I reckon this is part of their recovery and a remedy for their grief. There’s a lot of self-help literature out there that gets specific regarding things you can do now to heal from this hideous tragedy. I highly recommend Man’s Search for meaning by Viktor Frankl. When I first started on the path to my healing reading that book was a significant help to me.
        “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor E. Frankl. have you ever read a book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross “on death on and dying”? She talks about the stages of grief and loss of a loved one. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance: these are the five stages one goes through when one has had a significant loss of any kind in my humble opinion. Please let me know how things are going.

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