The myth of Blue Monday – a reshare

This week, we’re continuing a sort of Mind Waves ‘tradition’ of posting about Blue Monday. But instead of writing something new, we’re re-sharing a post from our Project Manager @rosiehopes first published in 2021. Even though three years have passed, and it’s been eight years since Rosie first wrote about the myth of Blue Monday, her words have only got more true, and the sentiment remains the same. The most depressing day of the year isn’t Blue Monday. It’s the day that you have depression. Her words are below.

I first published a post on why Blue Monday is nonsense way back in 2015. Half a decade later, in the midst of a pandemic the myth of Blue Monday has failed to go away. I’m beginning to feel like a ghost that returns on the same day every year with the same message, but here goes:

It’s become tradition to fear “Blue Monday”, the third Monday of January, which apparently is the most depressing day of the year. It makes sense. Over Christmas we’ve spent all our money, gained weight, drunk too much and the weather’s rubbish. Sounds like a recipe for depression.

Except that it’s made up. Blue Monday is, at best, a myth and at worst a shameless marketing ploy that exploits low mood to sell anything from holidays to diet pills. Blue Monday started life as a press release from a travel company and has been absorbed into our culture as  fact. In truth, there’s not much evidence that depression rates are higher in winter than summer- and there’s certainly no scientific formula for calculating the most depressing day.  If you want to know more about the science @BenGoldacre   has written at length on this subject. 

Depression is an illness. Suggesting that it’s just feeling low after Christmas belittles that. Those of us who have faced it manage to feel depressed without any reason at all. In fact, being asked to justify it can be distressing. As @StephenFry said:

“You may say, ‘How can anybody who’s got it all be so stupid as to want to end it all?’ That’s the point, there is no ‘why?’ That’s not the right question. There is no reason. If there was reason for it, you could reason someone out of it.”

The most depressing day of the year isn’t Blue Monday. It’s the day that you have depression.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why mental health charities are happy to jump on Blue Monday. It gets people talking about mental wellbeing, and that’s a good thing, right?

Well maybe, but it’s no reason to abandon a commitment to the truth. And it could even be harmful. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of suggestion and the role of what Ben Goldacre (again) calls “nocebo” , the evil twin of placebo. Being told it’s a depressing day, especially by organisations that present themselves as authorities,  might even make us feel worse.

So, let’s not do it. Let’s just accept that the third Monday in January 2015/16/17/18/19/20/21 will be a day like any other. Some of us will be depressed. Some won’t. That’s about as much as we can say.

Read Rosie’s original 2015 post about Blue Monday by clicking here.

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