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Friday, March 24, 2023

Blue Monday

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GP explains why it could be harmful for nation’s mental health.

Known as ‘Blue Monday’, the third Monday of every January (today) is said to be the ‘saddest day of the year’ based on a number of factors, including debt levels, weather and post-Christmas gloom. 

However, not all the evidence behind the day is accurate and the annual event could actually have a negative impact on those struggling with their mental health, argues Christina Papadopoulos, GP at digital healthcare provider, Livi. 

The origins of Blue Monday:

“The concept originally appeared in a travel firm’s press release to sell holidays in 2005.

“It was supported by Cliff Arnold, psychologist and life coach, who supposedly developed an algorithm for when the saddest day of the year would occur. 

“It was said to be based on the weather, levels of debt and time since Christmas, among other contributors.”

Scientific research to support Blue Monday: 

“It is important to remember that there is no scientific research to support Blue Monday.

“It originated as a PR stunt and many marketers continue to use the term in order to boost sales of items like holidays or health and wellbeing products.”

Implications of Blue Monday on mental health:

“Depression can affect people all year round, regardless of the day.

“Everyone will have good and bad days throughout the year and putting so much emphasis on one day could imply that depression only occurs one day a year, when in fact, many people live with the condition for months or even years.

“For people living with depression, the concept of Blue Monday can trivialise a serious condition. 

“The build-up to Blue Monday and the day itself can also create anxiety among those living with mental health conditions, creating a sense of pressure to ‘overcome’ the day. 

“Retrospectively, Cliff Arnold himself recognises how his Blue Monday concept is unhelpful and has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy – a sociological term used to describe a prediction that causes itself to become true.”

“Starting conversations about depression and other mental health conditions is important and Blue Monday can help to prompt these, but we must remember that these conversations are just as important every day.”

Blue Monday and SAD:

“Blue Monday is not the same as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

“While many people don’t enjoy the winter months, for some the shorter days can have more serious effects.

“A lack of sunlight has shown a correlation with symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in some people.

“This is a type of recurring depression with a seasonal pattern.

Many of the symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression: 

·       Persistent low mood and irritability 

·       Loss of interest in everyday activities

·       Feelings of despair or worthlessness

·       Lethargy, sleeping for a long time and finding it hard to get up

·       Craving carbohydrates and putting on weight”

Identifying depression:

“Everyone gets low from time to time, but we start to call that feeling depression when it becomes persistent over weeks or months and starts to have a serious impact on your life.

“When we’re depressed, we may be aware of feelings of sadness, even despair, and we may feel lethargic, have disturbed sleep or eating patterns, and be generally less resilient in the face of normal knock-backs and life events.

“For very mild symptoms of depression, simple things such as self-help books, regular exercise, a good sleep regime, mindfulness and reduced alcohol intake can help.

“Sometimes depression symptoms are manageable and pass with time, but sometimes they aren’t, and it’s important to get help – ideally before you reach a crisis point.”

Seeking help and knowing what’s available:

“Sometimes, you may need professional support to help manage mental health conditions.

“If you regularly feel overwhelmed and your symptoms are affecting your day-to-day activities, book an appointment to speak to a doctor or therapist where you feel most comfortable, whether that’s digitally or in-person. 

“Your doctor or therapist may suggest talking therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy to help, as well as medication.

“Remember your doctor is available to help all year round, not just on Blue Monday.”

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