21/01/2019 09:20 GMT | Updated 21/01/2019 09:20 GMT

The 'Blue Monday' Myth Undermines Genuine Mental Health Struggles

There is no ‘science’ to suggest that today is more depressing than any other – mental health problems don't follow a linear route, and marketing execs should stop pretending it does

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“Tell me how do I feel, Tell me now, how do I feel”, so goes the song Blue Monday by New Order.

For a song released in 1983 it was prescient in describing a day that 20 years later would become known as Blue Monday.

Since 2005 every third Monday in January has been dubbed ‘Blue Monday’ – the alleged most depressing day of the year – and it does tell us how we are supposed to feel: blue.

The reasoning for this is supposedly formulaic; a combination of Christmas blues, bad weather, and the realisation that New Years resolutions aren’t viable render us at our lowest point in the year, or so said British psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall.

However, last year research finally debunked this theory once and for all – rather than a complex scientific theory the day was found to be no more than a campaign devised by Sky Travel to encourage those ‘feeling low’ to strive for happiness in the future – by booking a summer getaway – beat the January blues ring any bells?

Statistics from the Centre for Suicide Prevention show suicide rates are at their highest not in the grey months of January but in the summer months – the rate is fairly stagnant throughout the year and there is no reason attributed to the higher rate in summer.

The truth is that there is no ‘science’ to suggest that today is more depressing than any other, only pseudoscience.

For those who struggle with genuine depression understanding its origin and how to deal with it is sufficiently difficult in its own right.

While days like Blue Monday may appear to be a light-hearted joke, legitimate depression is far from it.

Ostensibly, the stigma surrounding mental health is fading.

As a topic it is no longer taboo, an increasing number of prominent figures are speaking out about their own experiences, and there is far greater public awareness of the issue.

This is undoubtedly a positive step forward, and yet, despite this increased coverage, the fact Blue Monday continues to gain traction year after year reinforces rather than challenges the tired stereotypes of depression.

There is a whole spectrum of depression – high functioning, low functioning, clinical, chronic – it is so much more than just feeling blue.

 It is a weight, a constant tiredness and lack of energy: the feeling of not feeling – and the fear that it may never go away.

And for one day or month a year – the whole world wallows with you.

‘I’m depressed’, becomes a common thing to overhear, but as spring begins, and summer holidays abound, they return to their normal lives, and you’re left feeling alone.

One may argue that any attempt to draw attention to mental health is beneficial – but to diminish it to something that can be solved with a holiday is reductive to any constructive discussion that moves the debate forward.

It is difficult enough to express your feelings about your innermost thoughts openly and honestly without the fear of reprisal that not only are your feelings not legitimised, but they are down to the weather.

It has taken years to bring discussions of mental health into the mainstream, but it begs the question just how nuanced is our understanding of mental health if Blue Monday continues to be celebrated year after year?

In a country where both a minister for suicide prevention and a loneliness minister were appointed in the last year, it is abundantly clear that legitimate mental health problems are valid and very much present in our society.

There are several steps that can be taken to help combat this, and Blue Monday is not one of them; depression, unlike seasons, does not follow a linear route - and marketing executives should stop pretending that it does.