Blue Monday, which usually occurs on the third Monday of January, is cited by many to be the "most depressing day of the year". But mental health experts have criticised the day, arguing that it risks trivialising mental health issues.
Leading the way are mental health charity Mind, whose #BlueAnyDay campaign hopes to remind people that depression doesn't care what day it is.
“Blue Monday contributes to damaging misconceptions about depression and trivialises an illness that can be life threatening," Mind’s Head of Information Stephen Buckley said. "1 in 6 people will experience depression during their life. It can be extremely debilitating with common symptoms including inability to sleep, seeing no point in the future, feeling disconnected from other people and experiencing suicidal thoughts.
“There is no credible evidence to suggest that one day in particular can increase the risk of people feeling depressed. There are of course certain things that may make people feel down at this time of year, such as post-Christmas financial strains, broken New Year’s resolutions, bad weather and short daylight hours. However, depression is not just a one day event."
Jayne Hardy, CEO and founder of Blurt foundation, told HuffPost UK: "At Blurt, we usually welcome any chance to talk about depression - to increase awareness and understanding. However, we feel Blue Monday does little to support that.
"Depression is much more than the 'blues', it affects every aspect of a person's life, and can occur at any time of year. It takes lives. With Blue Monday, we're at risk of trivialising the illness, downplaying just how debilitating an illness depression is."
Dr Mark Winwood, director of Psychological Services, AXA PPP healthcare, echoes this sentiment and says that focusing on one day alone can detract from a wider conversation around mental health and stop people seeking the help they need.
"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," he said.
"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."
Blogging on HuffPost UK, George Woolfrey who suffers from depression has called the day "insulting" and says the day "spreads misunderstanding" around mental health.
Jessica Carmody, 35 from London, has experienced depression throughout her life. She says: “Blue Monday is absolute nonsense. It completely trivialises a serious illness that affects people, like me, every day. Depression affects people in many ways, from feelings of worthlessness and anger to lack of sleep. Depression is not, and never will be, something that happens on one day only.”
Twitter users agree, with many calling out brands and holiday companies for jumping on the hashtag to promote giveaways and sales.
— Jessica Carmody (@volette) January 18, 2016
Never been keen on term Blue Monday. Depression & mental health issues tend to be ongoing problems not things that can be condensed in 1 day
— Elainovision 2016 (@scattermoon) January 18, 2016
— Rosie Claverton (@rosieclaverton) January 18, 2016
Wacking 2 grand on my credit card for sunshine hols ain't gonna cure my manic depression. Don't buy into the Blue Monday bollox #blueanyday
— Steve Bickmore (@SteveBickmore) January 18, 2016
You know what depresses me? Marketing a fictional blue monday to people as if depression only affects folks on this day.
— Dj Walker-Morgan (@Codepope) January 18, 2016
To help Mind be there for people with depression throughout the year text BLUE to 70080 to donate £3*.
Useful websites and helplines:
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393 Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.) Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org