Blue Monday, popularly known as the “most depressing day of the year” and held on the third Monday of January, receives a fair amount of bashing in the press these days. Rightly so – after all, it was the pseudoscientific brainchild of a travel campaign for an airline that has since gone bust, all in the name of selling more holidays to people who are feeling vulnerable and in need of a pick-me-up.
Let’s be clear. That the world collectively feels more “depressed” on a single day of the year is clearly a misnomer. As many media folk have been quick to point out, this logical fallacy undermines our collective understanding of “depression” in its entirety. Clinical depression is a severe, chronic condition, one that doesn’t exactly take days off nor suffer from what most would call a “bad day”. People battle depression day in and day out, sometimes for months but often as long as decades. For many, it’s a lifelong illness that needs to be managed and maintained as many chronic physical illnesses need to be managed. Neuro-normative brains typically don’t become “depressed” because it’s cold outside, Christmas feels like a distant memory, and we’re all disheartened at the first high winter bill of the season with no festive break to look forward to – save Valentine’s Day, which, please.
In this sense, Blue Monday’s dubious origins ought to be questioned and critically analysed.
In another sense, any day is an appropriate day to discuss issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing – whether you suffer from a specific, diagnosed condition or not. At the Bristol Doctoral College, we thought we’d take this opportunity to bring into discussion an issue that academia tends to brush under the carpet, but which has recently come knocking at institutional front doors with brute force due to its urgency: the chronic ill mental health of students in higher education, particularly in research students.
I’m not defending #bluemonday, and I’m especially not defending its source; I am reclaiming it in attempt to destigmatize issues around mental health and to encourage critical reflection on our own wellbeing. For many, every Monday is a Blue Monday; indeed, everyday is Blue Monday. Maybe our concern with what the day stands for is a microcosm of the larger problem: maybe we ought to stop worrying about where ‘Blue Monday’ comes from, and use it as an opportunity to discuss how what most of us take for granted (our own wellbeing) will become a serious crisis for 1 in 4 people in the UK this year. Blue Monday, coming so close to the start of the year, can help us turn the lens on what is ‘blue’ in our own society, and what we can do this year to change it.
At the BDC, we’re taking this opportunity to remind our Postgraduate Researchers that we aren’t scared of talking about mental health. We’re not going to question you when you say you are having a blue day, a blue month, or a blue year. We’re going to point you to the services that are available to you. We’re going to champion the everyday actions that make a difference in everyone’s wellbeing. A part of that involves making sure our own wellbeing is healthy; another, much larger part, is about listening to your stories. Instead of discussing the cynicism of Blue Monday’s origins, we’re going to turn our view to the silver lining, and we invite you to join us.