Barton Goldsmith column: It's almost the most dangerous time of year

Suicide, alcohol use and drug use increase in summer.

Barton Goldsmith
Barton Goldsmith is a columnist for Tribune News Service. (TNS)
Contributed / Tribune News Service

Most suicides do not take place at the winter holidays, like most people think, but happen toward the end of July and in August. At this time of year, being aware of how the people we love are feeling is even more important than usual.

It’s not enough just to say something if you see something; you may have to be the one to give someone a ride to the doctor’s office. One observation and one action can save a life, maybe several lives.

Why do suicide rates go up in the summer?

No one knows.


But my thinking is that the days are much longer than in the winter, and this can be hard if you are depressed. Of course, seasonal affective disorder is just the opposite: People become depressed without enough light or time outdoors in the winter. But for others who suffer with depression year-round, bedtime may be the best part of their day, and having to stay up later gives them too much time to ruminate on their internal pain. It is also one of the reasons that alcohol and drug use increases as well in summer.

You can be depressed without being suicidal — many millions of people are — but if you are having suicidal thoughts and have the means and a plan, you are in danger. You can pick up the phone and call 1-800-273-TALK right now, and have someone listen at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Help really is just 11 digits away.

I sometimes suffer from depression, but what keeps me from sinking deeper is the knowledge that my outlook can change in a New York minute. The phone can ring, an email will come, someone will apologize to you or acknowledge your value. This is true for all of us.

With the pandemic, things have gotten worse for most people who are depressed. Loneliness is also at an epidemic level, and that kind of heartache can lead you to thinking that the world would be just fine without you, which is a lie. You add to the fabric of society, and are important simply because you care. You also matter to others, even if you don’t think you do. Maybe it’s just the computer tech you talk to once a month or a delivery person, but you do matter to them.

Someone I hardly knew from my office building died of COVID-19. We used to say hello when we passed each other, and maybe we would talk about boats for a few minutes. Not a deep relationship, but he mattered to me, and his loss is something I feel. There are people who have feelings like that for you as well; you just don’t know it or can’t feel it right now.

Suicide is not an answer. It’s just a way to quit feeling. Even if your feelings aren’t good, they actually are a reminder that you are alive. As long as you are breathing, you can change your situation and your attitude. You may need to reach out for a little help, but more is available than ever before, so what are you waiting for?

Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time." Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith, or email him at ©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Related Topics: FAMILY
What To Read Next
Roger Hill, owner of The Snake Pit, had his first tarantula at 12. “We weren’t interested in sports. We were interested in keeping animals and raising animals, but nothing normal,” he recalled.
Old-Fashioned Beer Beef Stew and Beer Chocolate Cake hit the spot.
With its soft and gooey center surrounded by a crisp exterior, kladdkaka is the perfect cross between a brownie and a molten lava cake.
Members Only
In the hours before dog teams arrived, a John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon checkpoint in Grand Marais became a buzzing hive of activity. "It's like a family reunion," said one volunteer.