As if Mondays weren’t bad enough, today, the third Monday of January, has been given the annual title of Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. Psychologist Cliff Arnall first coined the phrase in 2004, after a holiday company asked him to find a scientific formula for the January blues.
Despite Arnall's credentials, there's not much science at play in his claim. The idea doesn’t amount to much more than the fact that by this stage of January Christmas is long over over, the summer is still months away, we're perhaps beginning to fail our New Year Resolutions, and people are becoming strapped for cash after the holidays.
Debate continues over whether or not a term like Blue Monday is a useful thing. Some argue that suggesting one day of the year can be more depressing than any other trivialises mental health and potentially creates an artificial hurdle for people to overcome.
Certain times of year, festive holidays, birthdays and anniversaries are genuine causes of stress and anxiety to people, so to create a day that is supposed to be the worst of the lot, seems at best a bit cynical.
Is any awareness good?
However, a lot of people are saying that no matter how dubious the origins are, anything that raises awareness is a good thing. A major theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year was that mental illness, despite not always carrying the same physical, outward symptoms, is just as important as physical illness, and should be openly talked about in the same way.
Public attitudes towards Mental Health have indeed been changing in recent years, and as a society we seem to be on the right path towards helping people. What was once swept under the rug and not treated as seriously as physical health, is now talked about more openly.
A few months ago, around Mental Health Awareness Week, Radio One Breakfast Host, Greg James opened up about his own mental health, addressing his 5.6 million listeners during a comic relief broadcast. He said: “The last couple of weeks I have not been feeling that great, every now and then. I have been struggling a little bit. I had quite a bad anxiety attack last night. I always think that I am very fortunate that I have an amazing family, a brilliant wife, an amazing mum and dad, loads of brilliant friends near me who can always pick me up. I do actually go and see a therapist and I am lucky enough to be able to afford to do that. There are a lot of people who can’t do that, that need that support network, and this is what the money goes to. Comic Relief will distribute that money and help people who can’t afford to go to see a therapist.”
This sort of public discussion is essential, because Mental health issues – particularly anxiety – are prevalent among young people. There are often throwaway, cliche explanations for this, including a lack of sleep, or an obsession with things such as social media. Anxiety, however, goes far beyond this. It comes from a feeling of uncertainty about what is ahead, and Millennial’s, at a stage of life where so much can seem uncertain, are more vulnerable to it than most.
Blue Monday runs the risk of being another throw away reference, because as Jame's describes, stress and anxiety is unpredictable, and certainly doesn't arrive neatly on the calendar. But seeing as it's here - trending on twitter and appearing on prominent websites - it's worth using as an example to point out how crucial it is to talk about mental health, and what help is available for those who need it.
Where to get help
- Your local GP
- South West College, Student Support Officer (calling into the Student Services Office or email:
- Carecall – 0800 389 5362
- Aware – 0845 120 2961
- Aware – have 23 support groups throughout Northern Ireland which welcome people with depression as well as the family and carers of people with depression. For more information on our support groups, please click here (https://www.aware-ni.org/information-about-our-support-groups.html)
– free online counselling
- Saneline – 0300 304 7000
- Lifeline – 0808 808 800