Last updated on Jan 22nd, 2021 at 11:02 am

Suicide and depression spring fever

On an average day, 23 South Africans lose their lives to suicide and, counter-intuitively, more of these lives are lost in spring. In fact, the latest studies seem to suggest that there is little correlation between mental wellbeing and warm weather.

Mariska van Aswegen, spokesperson for leading antidepressant drug producer, Pharma Dynamics, says we instinctively believe that warm weather makes us happier, when in fact itâ??s often quite the opposite.

Why suicide rates soar in spring

â??In spring, there is a tremendous pressure to be happy. The sky is blue, the days are getting warmer and longer and events like weddings, braais and parties abound. The contrast between what we think we should feel (joy, happiness) and what we may feel (sad, anxious, irritated or uncomfortable with our body) can lead to feelings of depression,â? says Van Aswegen.

â??People who are vulnerable to suicidal behaviour face more challenges when the weather warms and social interaction increases. Those who are struggling may feel left out of social engagements – essentially, they feel that the isolation of winter has withdrawn for everyone else except for them,â? she says.

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Another school of thought attributes the increase in sunshine directly to the spike in suicides during spring. Some psychologists contend that sunshine can actually give people who have been feeling tired and worn-out by the lack of sunlight during winter enough energy to plan and carry out a suicide, yet not sufficient to give them an emotional boost.

Allergies increase the risk of depression

Van Aswegen points out that people suffering from allergies, particularly hayfever, are at a higher risk of depression.

â??Headaches, sleeplessness and fatigue associated with allergies are all symptoms of depression as well. Studies also confirm that changes in allergy symptoms during low and high pollen seasons correspond to changes in patientsâ?? depression and anxiety scores.â?

She says that one may rationalise that if they donâ??t feel good in spring, when the world is renewing itself, they are probably never going to. â??But itâ??s important to remember that, even though it may seem as if everyone else is having a wonderful time frolicking in the sun, many are not and are confronted by the same issues as you are,â? Van Aswegen adds.

Symptoms of clinical depression

Most people feel sad or low at some point in their lives, but clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships.

Symptoms of clinical depression may includeâ?¦

  • Tiredness or loss of energy almost every day

  • Significant weight-loss or gain

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • Impaired concentration

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)

  • Diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities

If any of the above symptoms continue for longer than two weeks, Van Aswegen offers the following advice:

Seek help from a psychologist or mental health practitioner

They will be able to teach you ways to â??reframeâ?? your mind and to think more positively about your situation, which leads to better self-control and improvements in mood. In some cases, medication may also be helpful.

Those suffering from depression can contact Pharma Dynamicsâ??s toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained SADAG counsellors who are on call from 08h00 to 20h00, seven days a week.

Work out regularly

Exercise is a great way to boost your mood and self-confidence.

Sleep

Try to get at least eight hours of sleep every night.

Remember, you are not alone

Recognise that you are not alone in feeling depressed. Spring is particularly hard on single, divorced or widowed people.

Major depression affects about one in three South African adults, 8,3% of adolescents and 2,5 % of children.

Pharma Dynamics remain committed to public education and advocacy efforts for mental wellness in South Africa and encourages the public to engage in a dialogue about mental health and wellness via www.letstalkmental.co.za.

Recommended reading: Suicide: How to spot early warning signs Photo credit: dno1967b via photopin cc

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.