arrives March 20 and many will appreciate the sunshine and
warmth it brings after winter's gloom. But for some, spring
brings dark, desperate feelings.
It's a cruel
incongruity, but spring is typically the season when suicide
rates spike. Data from the National Center for Health
Statistics show routine rises in suicide rates in the U.S.
anywhere from March to June nearly every year since 1999.
adjunct assistant professor at Emory University's Rollins
School of Public Health, said scientists have speculated for
years on a number of causes, everything from the biological
effects of sunshine to the psychology of loneliness.
other countries also report peaks in the spring and summer,
however, recently, the UK has had less seasonal variation.
The causes for seasonal variations have not been
definitively determined," she said.
knowing what causes the increases, the public health picture
of suicide is grim. More than 38,000 Americans committed
suicide in 2010, an average of 105 people every day. In
2012, suicide surpassed traffic fatalities as the top cause
of injury-related deaths in the U.S, according to the CDC.
also a major public health threat in Georgia. In 2010 alone,
1,165 Georgians took their own lives, up from 904 in 2006,
according to the Georgia Violent Death Reporting System. By
comparison, 682 Georgians were murdered in 2010. The state
also has the highest suicide attempt rate in the nation,
with 1.5 percent of Georgians reporting they tried to take
their own lives within the past year.
With such a
widespread problem, Georgia has taken major steps to work to
prevent suicide. In 2001, stakeholders around the state
crafted the Georgia Suicide Prevention Plan, becoming one of
the first states to develop a plan to tackle the problem.
The plan spells out how to bring suicide prevention into the
worlds of education, health care, media, the workplace,
religious communities and the criminal justice system.
If that seems
rather broad, that's because suicide touches many different
kinds of people -- from teens in high school to older
one reason for suicide. There are so many components to it,"
said Sheri McGuinness, president and chief executive officer
Suicide Prevention Action Network of Georgia (SPAN-GA).
"We can't find a cure. There's no pill for it. So there are
many places where we need to have an impact."
One of the
biggest challenges lies in identifying and helping people
struggling with their mental health. Major depression,
bipolar disorder, substance abuse and other mental health
problems are some of the biggest risk factors for suicide.
People who attempt suicide or talk about attempting it are
at an even higher risk of killing themselves. And then there
are those who take their lives on an impulse, perhaps after
suffering a traumatic event or a prolonged private struggle.
was what haunted McGuinness' husband, Joe, who committed
suicide in 1999. McGuinness said he had struggled the last
few years of his life and felt increasingly that he was a
burden to his wife and their four children. After her
husband's death, McGuinness realized the importance of
bringing suicide out of the shadows.
much stigma around suicide that it's hard to reach out for
help or hard to know what to do," she said.
in Georgia have been working for more than a decade to fight
that stigma and start conversations about suicide. Schools
around the state host Sources of Strength,
a national program that works with young people to change
attitudes and behaviors to prevent suicide. Organizations
like McGuinness' SPAN-GA and the Georgia Suicide Prevention
Coalition work to promote suicide awareness, prevention,
intervention and after-care. The groups not only try to keep
suicides from happening, but they also work to care for
survivors of suicide. Caring for family and friends of those
who kill themselves turns out to be an important part of
prevention as well, since one in four suicide attempters
have a family history of suicide.
Survivors of Suicide (SOS) groups in communities across the
state and on April 19-21 the organization will host its
second annual Camp SOS for families who have lost a loved
one to suicide. For more information on the camp or to
register to attend, email
If you or someone you know struggles with thoughts of
suicide, call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line (GCAL) at
1-800-715-4225 or visit
, where Georgians in crisis can connect with
professional social workers and counselors 24 hours a day.