Blue Monday - What an Absolute Farce

16/01/2012 19:55 GMT | Updated 17/03/2012 09:12 GMT

Today, apparently, is the most depressing of the year in what 'experts' call 'Blue Monday'.

Before today, I'd never heard of it despite spending the past eight years with a series of mental health problems. Once I looked into its origins, for articles I was writing for work, I discovered that it was probably the crudest name for a day... ever.

The day originates from a marketing scheme from a PR company, Porter Novelli, who worked on behalf of Sky Travel and wanted to sell more holidays. I can see it now: "The media are telling me I'm supposed to be depressed - I better book a cruise."

The company enforced this with the findings and 'official equation' of Cliff Arnall who used to work part-time at the University of Cardiff before they hastily distanced themselves from him following publication of the report.

This 'mathematical' equation uses the following factors: time since Christmas, time since failing New Year's resolutions, low motivational levels, and a feeling of taking action.

For those who are interested in how you give 'low motivational levels' and 'a feeling of taking action' a numeric value, you'll have to ask Arnall directly. He didn't tell us in the release.

Dr Ben Goldacre, a columnist at the Guardian, reported that the release came pre-written to a number of notable psycho-academics who were offered money by Porter Novelli to put their name on it. He also said Arnall is "probably the most prodigious of all producers of bogus 'equations'."

Dr Goldacre also claimed that Arnall had doubled his money on signing a similar deal with Walls ice cream makers, for whom he found the happiest day in the year - apparently mid-June.

After slamming the report, the equation and Arnall himself in an earlier article, Dr. Goldacre received an email for the faux-equation-inventor saying: "Further to your mentioning my name in conjunction with 'Walls' I just received a cheque from them. Cheers and season's greetings, Cliff Arnall."

Mental health charities have been quick to distance themselves from this report, after speaking with both Mind and the Mental Health Foundation (who laughed when I mentioned 'Blue Monday') I found neither of them to be supportive of the day.

Head of Research, Dr Eva Chyhlarova from the Mental Health Foundation, said: "It has been suggested that today is the most depressing day of the year and it has consequentially been dubbed "Blue Monday". There is no scientific evidence to suggest that today is the most depressing day of the year.

She said that any feeling of low mood through the winter months can be attributed to SAD: "About one in 100 people in the UK will be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a form of depression."

The fact is that people get depressed the whole year round, and just because some bloke with an overdue phone bill and a degree in psychology said this is it, doesn't make it so.

Mind's CEO Paul Farmer reiterated this, telling me: "There is nothing to suggest that one day in particular carries an increased risk of people feeling blue or depressed, but there are certain things that may make you feel down at this time of year, such as post-Christmas financial strains, short daylight hours and the cold weather leading to reduced levels of outdoor exercise."