Blue Monday. The so-called ‘most depressing day of the year’.
Except anyone with any experience of mental health problems will tell you that is simply not true.
What is predictably true however , is that Blue Monday began its life as nothing more than a marketing construct, a PR initiative invented by a brand back in 2005 to try and sell holidays.
Yep that’s right, the origin of the ‘most depressing day of the year’ tag lies with a gentleman called Dr Cliff Arnall who was tasked by his paymasters, Sky Travel, to come up with a unique idea to help them sell travel packages.
So, Dr Arnall produced what is generally regarded as a pseudo-scientific equation to ‘calculate’ the most depressing day of the calendar year, thus creating the best day of the year to book a holiday and lift you out of your January funk.
Factors taken into account when generating the date were the weather, post-Christmas debt, low motivation and the grinding realisation that we probably won’t be able to stick to those new year’s resolutions.
So why is the idea of Blue Monday so damaging? There are several reasons, but probably the most important is that it not only panders to, but propagates outdated and inaccurate stereotypes about depression.
It feeds into the narrative that ‘you’re only depressed in winter, because it’s dark all the time and the weather’s crap’ or ‘it’s the come-down after Christmas and everyone’s skint’.
It creates the illusion that depression is a social construct, something that everyone feels at the same time due to the same outside influences. The problem is that the notion of Blue Monday demonstrably minimises just how isolating depression can be to an individual sufferer.
The frustrating reality is that more often than not there is no specific trigger, nothing that you can pin down as the root cause of how you feel. But truthfully, depression doesn’t much care about how well or badly your life is going, about whether the sky is blue or grey or about what time of year it is.
It can sneak up on you at any time and often rises to the surface when you least expect it - any day of the year has equal potential to be your Blue Monday.
It is of course perfectly plausible that a holiday may alleviate some of the symptoms of depression - a break from the pressures of everyday life is proven to have a restorative effect both physically and mentally - but it simply isn’t a long-term solution for clinical depression.
From day one, the concept faced criticism from many individuals and organisations both inside and outside the mental health sector.
Mental health charity Mind have been trying to counter the Blue Monday myth with a campaign called ‘Blue Any Day’ since 2016.
Speaking to The Debrief, Mind’s Head of Information, Stephen Buckley said:
“There is no credible evidence to suggest that one day in particular can increase the risk of people feeling depressed, and suggesting as such contributes to damaging misconceptions about depression, trivialising a potentially life-threatening illness.”
And the statistics speak for themselves. According to Mind approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and in England 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. Roughly 20 per cent of people have experienced suicidal thoughts with around 7 per cent attempting suicide.
However these statistics do not include the number of people experiencing mental health problems in hospitals, prisons, sheltered housing or people who are homeless, and in actual fact are likely to underestimate the prevalence of mental health problems in the UK.
So as your various feeds are bombarded with 'Six Ways To Overcome The Most Depressing Day Of The Year' and 'The Very Best Blue Monday Deals' just remember that not only is the very concept of Blue Monday a marketing stunt which preys on the vulnerabilities of those with mental health problems, tomorrow is just as important a day to recognise mental wellbeing as today - or any other day of the year.
For advice and support, you can can contact Mind on 0300 123 3393, text 86463 or visit www.mind.org.uk