In case you missed it, last Monday was called ‘Blue Monday’ (Jan 17th), declared the official saddest and most depressing day of the year back in 2005, by Cliff Arnall, a tutor at the time, attached to Cardiff University, in response to a request from a travel company to provide a scientific formula for the worst day of the year, by way, it seems, of hoping to encourage holiday purchases, as the quick fix to making everyone feel better.
Arnall’s formula included January’s poor weather, a post-Christmas deflated feeling, failed New Year’s resolutions, debt from December’s over spending, and/or low bank balances because of the oh so long time to end of month pay days that January seems to annually deliver. He created this formula, he says, so that such misery might ‘inspire’ people to take positive action in their lives.
While Arnall now campaigns against the very concept he coined (recognising his attempt to ‘inspire’ more reinforced why we should feel miserable), and while his scientific formula is described by most practitioners in his field as nonsensical, the trouble is the name and concept of Blue Monday has stuck.
Of course, the commercial explosion in recent years of Black Friday, meant that the sound bitey name of Blue Monday, layered with its emphasis on how negative feelings can be countered with a commercial quick fix, was of course going to prove an irresistible marketing tool for the retail world.
But is this commercial ‘strategy’, costing those struggling with negative emotions, more than the price of a new pair of Nike trainers?
Could leaving people really struggling with these emotions, even on a minor scale, feel it is their doomed inevitability to feeling miserable, or act as a disincentive to even trying to feel good?
And is the concept Blue Monday trivialising depression and/or anxiety by referring to these emotions in the context of their being day events?
Because of these fears and frustrations, many mental health charities around the world decided to reframe the day themselves, by way of encouraging people to use the day to reach out and begin discussions with family, friends and even work colleagues, with regards to the topic of mental health.
In fact, The Samaritans this year ran a campaign called Brew Monday by way of reframing ‘Blue Monday’. Their campaign suggests this day as an opportunity to connect with others, over a chat and a cuppa. And the good news is that you can have a Brew Monday, any Monday of the year that suits you, or indeed any other day! The charity is hoping the Brew Monday idea will become, not only a good opportunity to talk about mental health, but perhaps by hosting a Brew Monday event in workplaces, or communities, or over zoom, that it will also normalise discussing mental health struggles and help raise much needed funds for the charity. To encourage participation, they provide anyone interested in running a Brew Monday event with all the resources you might need to organise it, from posters to cake flags, digital slides to activities to encourage people to engage with the event. See their Brew Monday resources here.
There are of course, many other mental health charities around the world, with resources for those, both experiencing mental health difficulties, and those who wish to help provide a listening ear.
According to Forbes Magazine, some of the top global mental health charities include, Strong Minds which works at treating depression amongst women in Africa, a country where almost 100 million suffer from depression with an estimated 85% having no access to treatment. In the US, they site the JED Foundation which works at helping prevent suicide amongst American teens and young adults and Rethink.org in the UK, which helps those suffering mental ill health and their carers, as amongst their top recommendations.
In Ireland, as well as the Samaritans, there are other mental health charities too. Aware runs a series of adult, school and workplace programmes to look after mental health. Jigsaw focuses on information and resources regarding youth mental health as does Spunout. And Pieta House provides a free therapeutic, crises counselling service.
As I am aware that a lot of people who read my blog are those living with, or recovering from illness, it is also worth noting that some of the charities associated with their illness, may also provide specific mental health supports. In relation to heart illness, the British Heart Foundation has released data from their survey, ‘Heart disease and mental health’ and earmarked supports that can be accessed all over the UK to cope with the mental health fallout. Similar supports can be found in other countries, including a free counselling service in Ireland run by the Irish Heart Foundation for heart patients, which can be accessed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Similarly some cancer charities in the US and in the UK like Macmillan cancer support and in Ireland like the Irish Cancer Society provide services for cancer patients where they can openly talk about their mental health struggles.
While I won’t have covered off all the mental health charities or services here, or all the tools that can help our mental health, I hope at least that by mentioning some charities, their initiatives, and links to their resources, that any of you who feel you are struggling with your mental health, or a loved one that may be struggling with their mental health now or in the future, can use some of theses avenues to reach out. Remember too that your GP/family practitioner is a vital source of support for a chat and an assessment as to where you, or your loved one’s, mental health is at.
It is worth noting too, that the new giddy happiness that is likely to envelop our society with Covid restrictions easing, could make it even harder for those suffering with low mood to speak up, or make them feel their misery is more out of place, or that they may be spoiling life for everyone else if they voice it. Those listening ears too must be more conscious that they don’t dismiss any admissions if they occur, because of a desire to keep a celebratory mood alive.
The all-important message here is, if you or someone you love is feeling miserable, blue, depressed, sad, hopeless or any other difficult feeling, that there is freedom and encouragement to reach out and connect to family, friends, charities, or professionals, regardless. It is in reaching out and sharing that those suffering will most likely get some of the vital support needed.
Thank you to all the charities and references quoted here. And as that old advert used to say remember “It’s good to talk”!
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