By Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services, AXA PPP healthcare
18 January 2016: The phenomenon of ‘Blue Monday’ supposedly occurs on the third Monday of January every year and is purported to be the most depressing day of the year.* The quiet-down after Christmas, return to work and dark, cold weather can indeed make it a difficult time of year for many people.
The problem that I find, however, as a mental health professional, is that all the focus onBlue Monday – whenever that may really be – takes the attention away from the wider conversation on mental health. Blue Monday is saturating the news with tips on how to beat stress, or little ways to boost your mood or products to help make January seem less bleak. But while all of these things can help promote mental wellbeing, casting Blue Monday as a one-day dilemma detracts from the seriousness of the issue.
Mental health needs to be a year-round discussion – especially as the idea that most people only feel blue on this one day of the year may well be a myth; with research showing that the word ‘depression’ is Googled every two seconds.**
There is still a huge amount of stigma associated with disclosure of mental health problems, not only in the workplace but among individuals too. This is what needs addressing more than any Blue Monday news item. By talking about mental health in a meaningful way, we have the power to change perceptions around the issue. Those living with mental ill health are not doing so alone, in fact, one in four people in England will experience a mental health problem in any given year.***
Trivialising the issue as a bout of the winter woes can actually prevent people seeking the help they need. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD), for example, is a real mental health issue exacerbated by low light and other winter conditions, which Blue Monday seems to belittle. Education around mental health is needed in order to understand the difference between actual depression and SAD and between actual depression and feeling low.
We need to create an environment where it is okay for people to disclose a mental or physical health difficulty without fear of it being made light of. To do this, we need to focus on bringing mental health to the forefront of the conversation – not just on Blue Monday but all year round.
*Blue Monday 18/01/2016. Wikipedia:
**Rachel Moss (19 January 2015). Blue Monday: someone Googles 'depression' every two seconds In the UK. Huffington Post UK:
***McManus S, Meltzer H, Brugha T, Bebbington P, Jenkins R (eds) (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: Results of a household survey. NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care: