THE third Monday in January has been tarnished as being the most depressing day of the year for over a decade now.
Yet Blue Monday, as it’s known, isn’t a real medical concept.
Of course the weather is miserable, everyone is skint and you may have even put a few pounds on over Christmas.
But the gloomy moniker now associated with this date was actually born out of a PR stunt by a travel firm back in 2005.
The company claimed that with the help of a psychologist, they’d come up with a complex formula, which considered factors such as the weather and debt to devise people’s lowest point.
Based on that, this formula was then used to analyse when people booked holidays – assuming people are most likely to do that when they’re feeling down – and so Blue Monday emerged.
Despite being debunked as pseudoscience, Blue Monday still creeps up year after year.
Dr Dean Burnett, neuroscientist and author, warns that the whole notion could be damaging to people’s understanding of mental health.
Calling for people to donate to the charity Rethink Mental Illness, he wrote on a GoFundMe page: “The very notion of a mathematically-predictable universally-applicable ‘most depressing day of the year’ is just rubbish.
“Its creator, Dr Cliff Arnall, devised it for a travel company in order to sell more holidays and even he admits that it’s completely meaningless.
The 7 signs of depression to look out for
One in four of us will be affected by mental health problems, every year – from stress, to anxiety and depression.
That’s why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign, to remind those in the grips of mental illness that there is hope.
And to encourage people to watch out for the warning signs a loved one could be in trouble.
Something as subtle as a change in attitude, or a friend withdrawing from the group, could be a key warning sign something is wrong, experts told The Sun Online.
Laura Peters, head of advice at the charity Rethink Mental Illness, told The Sun: “There are some common symptoms that run through many mental illnesses.”
- Sudden change in character/behaviour. For example, becoming silent and withdrawn; risky or dangerous; spending excessively
- Being inactive or sleeping more than usual
- Lack of sleep or insomnia. Some people find they struggle to get to sleep and will go days without proper rest.
- Extreme mood swings
- Substance abuse – think drinking more than usual or taking drugs
- Thinking about suicide – many people think about suicide for a long time before they realise they need help
“But it’s not just the fact that it’s terrible science that Blue Monday should be encased in concrete and dumped far out in the North Sea.
“The very notion of Blue Monday can be actively harmful to people’s understanding of mental health.
“Part of the Blue Monday ‘equation’ acknowledges that external, environmental factors can impact your mental health in tangible, negative ways.
The very notion of Blue Monday can be actively harmful to people’s understanding of mental health
Dr Dean Burnett
“That, in fairness, is completely accurate.
“However, everyone’s life and experiences are radically, fantastically different, even if they share the same house/job/parents/etc. That’s just how life works.
“It’s virtually impossible to determine all the factors that will affect someone’s mental health, especially in advance.”
He added: “Blue Monday insists otherwise, stating confidently that science can predict, map, calculate and apply all the factors that determine mood and mental health, easily and reliably.
“That’s so wrong as to be genuinely alarming.
“Similarly, implying that a bout of depression can be over and done with in 24 hours, as much of the Blue Monday coverage implies, can only lead to the idea that those who deal with it can, and should, ‘get better’, and rapidly.
“When they inevitably don’t, those who expected them to can be left perplexed and annoyed.”
The Sun’s You’re Not Alone campaign aims to help prevent deaths from suicide
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost – to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes. And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet, it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun has launched the You’re Not Alone campaign. To remind anyone facing a tough time, grappling with mental illness or feeling like there’s nowhere left to turn, that there is hope.
We share the stories of brave survivors, relatives left behind, heroic Good Samaritans – and tips from mental health experts.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others.
You’re Not Alone.
For a list of support organisations, see box below.
Campaigners including charity Mental Health UK have also blasted the idea of Blue Monday as “absurd”, adding that “any day of the year can be a challenge for people living with mental illness”.
The Mental Health Foundation says the mental health is something we should be talking about every day of the year, not just today.
A spokesperson said: “Depression and other mental health problems last for more than a day.
Any day of the year can be a challenge for people living with mental illness
Mental Health UK
“And mental health problems can affect people in different ways on any day of the year.
“Poor mental health is the greatest public health challenge facing our generation.
“Trivialising symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems, under the influence of commercial industries that wish to turn mental health into an on-trend topic for profit, is unacceptable.
“Our approach should be evidence-based, involve whole communities, and prioritise prevention.”
The charity suggests there a few starting points when it comes to protecting our mental health.
It says: “We could try and talk about our feelings to someone we know.
“We could try and keep active, eat well and drink sensibly, and ask for help if we are struggling.”
YOU’RE NOT ALONE: Where to seek help if you need it
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support: