Welcome to the happiness farm. It is Spring after all. You have probably heard the quote from Rainer Maria Rilke: “It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” But unfortunately the past 25 years or so have been different and the rates of depression and anxiety amongst people, especially the young adults, have risen by 70%. Almost 1 in 4 people between 16 to 25 have had suicidal thoughts and the number of children and young people with mental health issue has more than doubled since 2009. In the past 6 years, hospital admissions for teenagers with eating disorders have also almost doubled as well and even with this, according to the World Health Organization “Stigma and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care”.
Last year, on April 20th, Tim Bergling (better known as AVICII), the renowned Electronic Music producer and DJ was found dead in a farm house near Muscat, Oman, at the age of 28. On 1st May, TMZ reported that the cause of death was suicide. Reportedly, AVICII is not the only artist who committed suicide in Spring. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave, Disha Ganguly, the Indian actress and many others have taken their life in the hopeful season. The possible relationship between mental health and creativity is not new even though, apparently, musicians who contemplate on classical music are seen to be dealing with less mental health issue than the ones who dwell upon modern forms of music. Artists have been projecting their mental health status into their creativity for a long time now. Namely, Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893), Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889), Matthias Grunewald’s The Temptation of St. Anthony (c. 1512 – 16), Vittore Carpaccio’s The Healing of the Possessed Man at the Rialto (c. 1496). Pablo Picasso, himself, had a recognizable transition between his Rose and Blue Period began in late 1901 following the death of his friend Carlos Casagemas and the onset of a bout of major depression. The ancient Greeks were first to point out the link. In 2015 an Icelandic study claimed painters, musicians, writers and dancers were, on average, 25% more likely to be more susceptible to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia due to specific genes that they carried. But it raises the fraught question, is there a cohesion between mental health and Spring as well?
Walking into February, there’s always a noticeable change in the mood and behavior manifested on the people around us. It’s a reminder of the potency and aura that seasonal changes can have on us. Spring’s climate alter our cognition in a way utterly unlike anything we experience in Falls and Winters. And there’s always the Springtime pollen allergies that leave you all grumpy and sneezy for days. Several studies have shown the link between the allergies ( sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes or throat, watery eyes) and depression and anxiety. Researchers have also noted the suicide rate at the time of high pollen counts is very likely to be the result of increased anxiety or aggression related to inflammation promoted from cytokines; also known as sickness behavior. It comes as no surprise therefore that a study by the researchers from the university of the Maryland claimed that depression worsened during peak pollen periods in people with both bipolar disorder and active pollen allergies.
Reverse seasonal affective disorder can be a reason of depression as well. Fall incites a recurring sadness with it that usually lasts until the Spring. To some people it grows stronger with the Winter as there is less and less sunlight each day and results in winter blues to an extent that it starts permeating all aspects of one’s life — from work to relationships. This event is usually identified as SAD or seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a form of recurring depression in which the symptoms start and stop around the same time each year. But in about 1 out of 10 people experience the effect of reverse SAD with depression arrives in Spring or Summer. The influence is quite understandable, seeing people all around you having fun due to the very fact that spring is supposed to be a time of joy. So it highlights what is missing in your life. And then there is social media, financial pressure and media’s portrayal of unachievable beauty and lifestyle. “people go on vacations, and some groups may be disbanding for the season,” explains Michelle Riba, MD, professor and associate director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center. “So there may be less structure and a sense of support in place.” Meanwhile, you’re watching friends enjoy those picture-perfect vacays on Facebook or Instagram. “You wish well for everybody but sometimes you can experience jealousy and envy when you see this,” says Dr. Riba. Especially if you happen to be struggling with challenges in your own life, like a bad breakup or financial concerns.
When it comes to self evaluation the very thing we forget to remember is what values most to us and not in the eyes of the people around us who we want to be judged by. It’s the urge of being valued and condign by others that triggers the recurring depression sometimes. So if you’re one in the group, there may be some comfort in knowing that you aren’t the only one. So never hesitate to reach for help if you’re struggling.