“April is the cruelest month.”
That’s a line from T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” He was on to something. Counterintuitive as it might seem, April is the peak month for suicides. Theories abound about that correlation. An increase in manic behavior among those with bipolar disorder seems to be triggered by warmer weather and more sunlight. Another theory is that the increase in social interactions in the springtime following a hibernation in winter creates greater disappointment among those who are unhappy with their social connections.
But whatever the cause and whatever time of year it occurs, suicide is a major public health concern. It is among the leading causes of death in the United States.
There is no one specific trigger for suicide. Suicide affects people regardless of gender, race, age and socioeconomic status. It occurs when stressors outweigh the coping mechanisms of the person. We all need to be educated on this topic so we can recognize the warning signs in those around us.
As educators, our awareness of this issue is particularly important. We all must be extra vigilant about the behavior of students and colleagues and cognizant of the early warning signs and risk factors. Through this vigilance, we can identify and help those who may be at risk of suicide.
- Depressed mood
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Mood swings (happy to sad)
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Giving away possessions
- Expressing thoughts of hopelessnes
- Psychiatric history
- Family history of suicide.
- Prior suicide attempt
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Recent major medical diagnosis
If you think anyone in your school community is at risk, seek a professional consultation immediately to assess the level of risk and to discuss an action plan. Know who is on your school-based safety committee and what plan is in place for staff or students who are in crisis. Be sure to advise your school counselor or psychologist if there is a student you are concerned about. The union’s Member Assistance Program is a resource for all UFT members.
For additional resources, visit Your well-being.