What is the Broken Promises Effect?
After a long, dreary winter, the arrival of spring brings a sense of relief, excitement, and hope to many people. Long associated with “new beginnings,” the months of May and June bring songbirds, sunshine, and social events. For people suffering with depression, however, this collective joy and optimism may contrast sharply with their internal pain and unhappiness, leading to a sense of increased despair. Spring may indeed not turn out to be the panacea for depression one had been counting on, and this “broken promises effect” has been linked to a dramatic 15% rise in suicide rates throughout May and June.
Explaining Increased Suicide Rates
For many sad or anxious people, the onset of spring can indeed feel like a broken promise. A persistent low mood may make the season of “new beginnings” feel less joyful or vibrant than it once did before depression hit.
Theories abound as to why suicides increase in the spring. Perhaps a biological drop in sleep-inducing melatonin production – the body’s way of adapting to the longer days – generates dangerous agitation in already susceptible people with depressive disorders, bipolar disease, and schizophrenia.
Another possibility concerns a long observed link between inflammation and depression. Winter illnesses, vitamin D deficiencies from reduced sun exposure during the colder months, or even allergic reactions to pollen can all cause inflammatory processes in the body, potentially increasing suicidal ideation.
Preliminary studies have also shown a slight rise in suicide rates after some mass public gatherings – sporting events, concerts, religious revivals – all of which become more frequent in the spring. These events, charged with energy and positive excitement at the time, may leave people feeling let down in the proceeding days.
Whatever the cause, there is no doubt that suicide rates increase in the spring months. From a national average weekly rate of 700 suicides, statistics have long shown rates averaging 800 per week as the weather warms. The “broken promise effect” has also been linked to higher suicide rates on Mondays and on New Year’s Day.
Treating depression before these riskier times can prevent tragic consequences. Learning not to attach unrealistic expectations to springtime, the New Year, or any other event associated with “new beginnings” may help. Depression is a serious condition that cannot be wished away, and it is important not to expect that it will magically abate due to external factors.
Depression is a treatable condition. It is absolutely possible for even a severely depressed person to regain joy and interest in life.
-Dr. David Buch, Carrier Clinic®
Therapy and medications are tried and true treatments that can not only save lives, but make living much more enjoyable no matter the season. Other treatments and supporting therapies are also available to help. If medication has not been effective for you, Carrier Clinic® offers an ECT treatment program that could help.
Don’t Wait to Get Help
If you are thinking about suicide, it’s very important that you know you’re not alone and that there is hope. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline has trained counselors available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
Whether you are concerned about your own well being or that of a loved one, you may also call Carrier Clinic®’s 24/7 Access Center at 1-800-933-3579. Or you can check out this list of helpful resources containing additional mental health organizations and their phone numbers.
Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of an illness that can be treated, so we urge you to take the first step toward feeling better by calling for immediate help and then seeking ongoing treatment. Carrier Clinic®, a mental health hospital in NJ trusted for over 100 years, provides both outpatient and inpatient psychiatric treatment services that can help. Our trained behavior health professionals can help get you the care you need in a safe and comfortable environment.
So, if you or someone you love feels more down this spring, the “Broken Promises Effect” may explain what’s going on. The next step is to seek treatment so healing can begin and everyone can look forward to summer!
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