How many Blue Monday themed posts and articles have you seen today?
The story goes that 'Blue Monday' is the 'most depressing day of the year' based on a calculation of factors such as weather, debt levels, time since Christmas and time since failing our new year's resolutions. In truth, Blue Monday was created in 2006 by PR people to sell summer holidays - to hook us into spending money to make us feel better. In the decade since Blue Monday was conceived in an advertising agency brainstorm, public awareness of mental health has improved greatly, but there is still a lot to do.
The truth is that we all have mental health, and whether it is Blue Monday or any of the other 364 days this year; we will all face days when we find it hard to cope for whatever reason. This week, one in six of us will experience a common mental health problem like anxiety or depression. In our workplaces and in our circles of friends, there are people living with mental health problems, or just keeping themselves afloat, whether we know it or not.
The Blue Monday myth - like all good legends - has some elements of truth. We know that some people living with mental health problems find the winter months harder. If the Blue Monday hype has drawn your attention to your mental health, or made you think about how a friend, colleague, or loved one might be feeling then it has done some good.
Together with Unum we're reclaiming Blue Monday and encouraging people to take steps all year round to protect their mental health both at work and in day to day life. Here's some ideas:
Take time to recognise your mental health - It can be hard to recognise and make space for our feelings. When someone asks we usually say 'I'm fine' - but are we really? Try and check in with your feelings every day, asking yourself what's happening, and what, if anything you need to make things better. It's not easy - especially if things aren't good. Try and practice being kind to yourself. Techniques like mindfulness can be helpful in learning to live in the moment without judgement. Even small changes in life like sleeping better, or taking more exercise can have a big impact. Whilst there's a lot you can to boost your mental health, it's always a good idea to speak to your GP if you are worried. This guide has some tips for getting the most out of an appointment.
Take mental health to work - For many of us, our work is what gives us purpose, drive - and an income. Workplaces that promote mental health and support staff with mental health problems through thick and thin are more productive. People with mental health problems make up around 15% of the workforce according to research we produced with employee benefits specialist Unum. Those staff add £226bn of value to the economy every year. If you are a manager or a leader, changing your approach to mental health can also have big business benefits.
Be there for someone else - reaching out with compassion to a friend or colleague and doing something for someone not only helps them, but also can boost your own mental health. Being there for someone with a mental health problem isn't as hard as you might think. You don't have to be a specialist to ask someone how they are doing, be present, and listen to their response. For more on supporting people in your life check out these tips.
Stand up to stigma - most people who experience mental health problems still face stigma and discrimination in the workplace. Showing empathy and saying 'that's not OK' when you hear jokes or banter about mental health you can play your part in changing behaviours and making discrimination in mental health as unacceptable as discrimination on ground of race, gender, or sexual orientation.
For more ideas about how to look after your mental health, you can download a range of free how to guides from the Mental Health Foundation.