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Experts warn Daylight Savings time can jumpstart mental-health problems

Posted at 10:15 PM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 11:07:15-04

BILLINGS — When Daylight Savings time hits each year, the first thing people generally think about is setting the clocks forward.

But the time jump affects more than clocks. It can also have an effect on people’s health.

On the morning of March 12, the nation shot forward an hour. It was a change that brings more daylight in the evening, but for many, it draws in more darkness.

"The first time, my wife knocked the gun out of hand. The second time the rope broke. So, I have attempted it (suicide) twice over the last 10 years," said James Cambron, Billings Crisis Center case manager, on Tuesday.

Those dark thoughts, he said, came in part from a loss of sleep.

Both times, Cambron said, took place after the clocks jumped forward.

Cambron has struggled with depression for almost 10 years after surviving a prison riot where he worked as an officer. He subsequently developed PTSD after being severely injured. He says the time change only amplifies that depression for him and many of the people he helps at the Billings Crisis center.

"I kind to tend to feel more suicidal at times. I don’t really come up with a set plan, just the thoughts are more prevalent. And that’s kind of what we notice with our clients that come in this time of year, they’re more suicidal or vulnerable to self-harm," added Cambron.

Cambron isn't the only one who has noticed this phenomenon. A 2016 Australian study also linked the time change to an increase in suicides.

Suicides aren't the only negative findings associated with the time change. A study by the Journal of Clinical Medicine showed an increase of heart attacks in the days following the time jump.

And researchers in Finland found an associated increase in strokes as well.

Billings Crisis Center Director MarCee Neary said this time of year always provides an uptick in the number of people who need the center's help.

"Even in the last couple of days since we started Daylight Savings time, here at the crisis center, we’ve had a lot more agitated people. We have had more incident reports from people that are acting out that seem to be unhappy. We have had to work closer with our community partners because we have seen an uptick in persons with psychotic events," said Neary.

She says that when battling depression, an established routine can help.

"I think more than anything, it affects the way people schedule, especially if you’re a regimented person. Then it can really change your entire day for a while," added Neary.

But there could be light, no pun intended, at the end of the tunnel.

Earlier this month, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio reintroduced legislation on the Sunshine Protection Act that would make Daylight Savings time permanent, ending the annual clock change.

Something both Cambron and Neary would welcome.

"I don’t think it's beneficial anymore," Cambron said.

"I hate how it’s called Daylight Savings time. I mean really what does it save us? It definitely hasn’t saved us any time," Neary added.