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Study on suicide timing yields surprising results

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CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The results of a study on the timing of peak suicide risk might be surprising. It shows that right now might be one of the times that everyone needs to step up intervention.

Many believe depression gets worse in the darker parts of fall and in the winter. But this study shows suicides peak now – in the spring and early summer. Many would think that this time of year would boost a person’s mood.

Researchers in this study in the online journal of “Translational Psychiatry” found suicidal thoughts often start in the winter months. However, it takes a few months for those thoughts to become actions and reach what is considered a “tipping point."

Elisa Owens said she understands the struggle against these thoughts. She recently graduated from Cedarville University, but she said she had a tough time struggling with depression and isolation as a student during the pandemic.

"Eventually, I had a few crisis counseling appointments with counseling services here on campus. And I had been on the waitlist for counseling because I did realize things were getting bad, but it wasn't until I had already had a couple of attempted suicides that I actually got into counseling services and started medication,” said Owens, who studied social work.

The study found a heightened risk of suicide between December and June, because people have gradual improvements in mood and energy. It may enable them to plan and engage in a suicide attempt.

To find this out, researchers in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom had 10,000 people fill out questionnaires and do certain tasks focused on their moods and thoughts around suicide and self-harm during a six-year period.

They found suicidal thoughts peaked in December. Self-harm thoughts peaked in February. Both came before the peak of suicidal behavior, in spring and early summer.

Researchers also found people are most vulnerable to ending their own lives between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.

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The hope is finding this out helps with focused intervention times.

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