Valentine’s Day is not just the mushy, romantic holiday so often depicted on TV and commercials. What is for some a chance to celebrate true love is, for others, a difficult time that can bring on feelings of loneliness and depression. For proof look no further than the number of phone calls suicide hotlines receive on Feb. 14, as well as the number of people who have been diagnosed with "broken heart syndrome."
Many people without Valentines might find it harder to go into work, turned off by the roses being delivered to the person they sit next to. For most single people it could be a minor inconvenience, but for others who suffer from depression or other mental illnesses the feelings of isolation could be much worse.
Broken heart syndrome – also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy – is a temporary condition that can cause chest pains that the Mayo Clinic says may mimic a heart attack. It comes on during a stressful situation and may include an enlarged heart that doesn’t pump well, although the condition normally subsides along with the overwhelming stress.
The same stress that can be life-threatening in broken heart syndrome can also drive people to irrationality.
“The myth is that Christmas is the most high risk time for people to become suicidal, but actually it’s springtime,” Diane Brice, director of Suicide Prevention Service of the Central Coast, told City on a Hill Press. “Nationally, that’s the time with the highest rate of suicide.”
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Brice cited relationship trouble as the most frequent reason people call the suicide help line, followed by financial insecurity. Her numbers are consistent with a Missouri hotline that reported fielding roughly 200 more calls on Valentine’s Day and the amount of advice-seekers on Internet discussion boards.
Sites like SuicideProject.org allow anyone to get stress off their chest anonymously, while social news site Reddit has a plethora of disaffected Valentine-related discussions taking place simultaneously. Many focus on the stress of the holiday, which is combined with the anxiety of wanting to be rid of winter’s cold weather.
“And then February comes and you’re supposed to be in love and you’re supposed to be feeling better because it’s springtime, but some people don’t,” Brice said. “That’s when it gets really difficult for people, because of the expectation to feel better. … It’s because there’s so much emphasis put on being partnered and being in love, and a lot of people just aren’t.”