Tuesday 16 July 2019

What is #BlueMonday? Mental health charities dispute ‘most depressing’ day

The hashtag was started as part of a PR campaign which charities have called ‘pseudoscience’, ‘nonsense’ and ‘absurd’.,

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A woman showing signs of depression (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A woman showing signs of depression (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Alastair Reid, Press Association

People around the world have been tweeting about #BlueMonday, an annual trend which labels the third Monday in January as allegedly the “most depressing” day of the year.

But mental health charities have been using social media to dismiss Blue Monday as “pseudoscience”, “nonsense” and “absurd”.

So what is #BlueMonday?

A part-time psychology tutor, Dr Cliff Arnall, put his name to a formula for the “most depressing” day of the year back in 2005, after a PR firm approached him to help a travel company sell holidays.

The equation combines factors such as the temperature, daylight, length of the month, days since last pay day and length of time until the next bank holiday to determine that the third Monday of January is the “most depressing” day of the year, and therefore the best day to book a holiday.

However, research by the Times Higher Education supplement in 2006 found that the PR company had approached a number of academics with the same formula, including Gary Wood, a social psychologist at Birmingham University.

“They worked out the formula, but there was no psychological evidence – so I said no. It damages psychology,” he said at the time.

Many mental health charities agree.

Laura Peters, advice and information service manager at Rethink Mental Illness, said: “The science behind Blue Monday doesn’t add up. There’s no such thing as the most depressing day of the year. It was invented as a marketing ploy to sell holidays, and people live with depression all year round.

“It is a serious illness that is a causal factor in suicide – the second biggest killer of people under the age of 29 globally.”

Dr Arnall did not respond to requests for comment on Monday but previously told the i newspaper that he thought Blue Monday has a positive effect “to talk about how you feel including if you’re not feeling too great about life”.

While brands were using the hashtag to sell their products and services, charities hoped to raise awareness around the true nature of mental health.

Mental Health UK called the hashtag “absurd”.

“With 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem every year, we know that any day can be a challenge for someone with a mental health problem,” the charity tweeted.

Elsewhere, the NHS tweeted advice to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the Action for Happiness group offered 10 tips to “spread a bit more happiness anyway”.

Ms Peters continued: “Like any good myth it is based on a modicum of truth. Our mood and well-being is affected by our environment, and dark winter months can lead some people to experience low moods.

“While the weather isn’t great this time of year, it can help to get outside as much as possible.

“For anyone concerned about their mental health visit our website.

“If you feel that you’re in need of more immediate assistance, talk to your GP, go to A&E, or contact the Samaritans.”

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