By now, you’re probably well aware that today is “Blue Monday,” also known as the “saddest day of the year.”
You’ve seen it pop up in your newsfeed, and probably heard about it on the radio on your way to work.
As for myself, I’ve had no shortage of press releases grace my inbox, outlining various ways to “Beat the Blue Monday Blues,” which include everything from cheap movie tickets and indulging in comfort food, to booking a sunny vacation. Marketers and media outlets alike are quick to take advantage of the day by using it to sell products, or to score page views on the typical listicles outlining ways to cheer up today (one Google search will lead to countless iterations of such pieces).
And as someone who remains passionate about mental health awareness and has lost a friend to suicide, it really pisses me off.
First and foremost, “Blue Monday” isn’t even a real, science-backed thing. It’s a myth started by a now out-of-business British travel company called Sky Travel back in 2005 that sent out a press release declaring the third Monday of January as “the saddest day of the year” in an attempt to encourage people to beat the blues by booking a vacation. The release cited a “mathematical formula” by a U.K. psychologist that claimed that weather, debt, the ending of the holiday season, the darkness, and unsuccessful New Year’s resolutions made the day the year’s most depressing.
Almost immediately after the fact, British scientists started questioning the “research” behind such a bold claim. But while the science behind Blue Monday may have lost its credibility, the myth lives on, much to the joy of some advertisers.
At a time when we’re more progressive and vocal than ever in discussing mental health, it seems backwards to use depression to sell products. In my opinion, “Blue Monday” does nothing more than trivialize depression and mental health issues. Certain marketing campaigns pretty much make jest of depression by suggesting that the solution to your blues is to simply “watch a movie,” “go shopping,” or watch some stupid uplifting viral video (hint: it has cats in it). Everyone who has experienced mental health issues knows that if you were really suffering from depression, these things wouldn’t help. You wouldn’t say to a depressed person, “watch this funny movie; you’ll feel better.”
It’s like telling a depressed person to “snap out of it.”
Furthermore, Blue Monday trivializes depression because people who are depressed are depressed throughout the year, not just on one damn gloomy January day. In fact, my friend decided to end her life on a beautiful and sunny spring afternoon.
I recognize that January does indeed suck for some people: it’s dark, freezing cold, the holidays are over, and the prospect of summer seems forever away. I get that. But the whole concept of Blue Monday promotes the notion that a simple set of events can cause depression. In reality, it can strike at any time; it’s not always circumstantial and it’s certainly not the result of some warped equation.
Not to mention, if you were actually feeling pretty good about life today, the constant reminders on social media, the radio, and TV do none of us any favours in suggesting that we should feel sad.
By trivializing it in such a matter, Blue Monday ignores the devastating, life-altering impact it depression can have on individuals and their friends and family. So, no, I won’t buy into it, and I hope that you don’t either.
In the meantime, if you are depressed, know that there are resources available that are literally one phone call away. Use them. You’re not alone, I promise you.
You can find your local distress hotline here.