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After 15 years, is it time to put Blue Monday to bed?

Monday 20 January 2020 marks the 15th anniversary of Blue Monday, the name given to the day that is claimed to be ‘the most depressing day of the year’.

First publicised by holiday firm Sky Travel in a 2005 press release, the concept has since taken on a life of its own. Every year my inbox groans with emails from firms trying to cash in on the idea, with press releases offering deals, tips and tricks to help beat the blues on the third Monday of January.

Blue Monday itself is pure pseudoscience, having been calculated using some nonsense equation involving weather conditions, debt level, time since Christmas and motivational levels. Nevertheless the idea has clearly struck a chord somewhere, and this year is sure to once again see it hitting news bulletins and trending on social media channels.

However, with the rise of discussions in our industry about mental health, is the idea of a ‘most depressing day’ helpful – or a hindrance?

Sandra Collins, head of strategic communications at BCD Meetings and Events, says: “It’s good as a conversation starter, but only as part of a wider communication programme. Anything that’s an instigator of discussions is good, but if you just go “Look, it’s Blue Monday, it’s the most depressing day of the year”, so what? Are we then asking, ‘what are we doing to combat that?’.

“It can’t be a one-hit wonder, where you say, ‘Oh we dealt with that issue on the third Monday in January’. With our approach to mental health at BCD we were very worried to make sure it didn’t look like a cynical bandwagon jumping token gesture. People see through that very quickly.”

Laura Capell-Abra, founder of Stress Matters, says: “The concept that we are promoting that as a nation everyone is more likely to feel depressed on one day doesn’t sit comfortably with me, there is also no scientific basis to the way the date has been calculated. I would prefer for us to reclaim the language of ‘Blue’ Monday and empower people to use the word when they are feeling low, whatever point in the year, whatever day of the week and however regularly they do feel low.

“Saying that, if it gives the freedom for one person to feel more comfortable to talk about their mental health than they would have then that is a positive thing. I don’t like lumping everyone in to one bucket – and I don’t want those that have actual conditions to feel like it’s trivialised.”

A lot has changed in the way we as a society and an industry approach mental health issues in the last 15 years. While in 2005 it might have felt ok to make light of ‘the most depressing day of the year’, here in 2020 it jars a little. And while it clearly has value as a conversation starter – just how valuable are those conversations that it is starting?

As ever, we’d love to hear from you on this, please email us with your comments