Blue Monday Sheds Light on Mental Health Issues

by | Jan 20, 2014 | News

Victoria Quiroz

Photo by flickr user Casey David

Photo by flickr user Casey David

Blue Monday is here.

Acknowledged in some circles as the “most depressing day of the year,” Blue Monday falls on the Monday of the last full week of January.

The “most depressing day” came to be in 2005 when Cliff Arnall, a psychologist and life coach, calculated the depressing date by creating an equation that included factors such as weather, debt, time since Christmas, and “time since failing our New Year’s resolutions.”

It should be noted that a UK travel agency, Sky Travel, sponsored Arnall’s work. A similar estimation by Arnall for the “happiest day of the year” was sponsored by Wall’s, a UK ice cream brand.

Regardless of the legitimacy of Blue Monday, the day brings attention to mental health awareness, and most notably, Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D).

The Windsor chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association is using Blue Monday as a way to reach out to its community and increase awareness of mental health.

Kim Willis, the Senior Manager of Fund Development and Community Engagement at the Windsor-Essex chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, says that today’s event will provide the public with information about mental health and how to combat wintertime depression.

According to Willis, the Windsor-Essex chapter has held similar events before but not in recent years.

“There’s a growing need and interest, to shed more attention on the need to talk about mental health,” says Willis.

Depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder in particular, are prominent around this time of the year. In a 2012 video released by CAMH, Dr. Robert Levitan, Senior Scientist and Research Head of Mood and Anxiety Disorders, spoke about the statistics and issues of S.A.D.

In the video Dr. Levitan breaks down the percentages of Canadians suffering from S.A.D, as well as the degree to which they experience it. An estimated two to five per cent of Canadians experience severe clinical depression during the winter months, while around 25 to 35 per cent experience the “winter blues.”

Also in the video, Dr. Levitan says women are more susceptible to seasonal depression than men, with 80 per cent of S.A.D cases in women.

Dr. Levitan suggests that those who believe they may be suffering from seasonal depression first get assessed by a professional before attempting to treat themselves.

Seasonal depression is largely linked to a lack of light. In a publication on seasonal affective disorder by the Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the reduction of daylight hours during the winter is said to be the “primary culprit” of S.A.D. It is also noted that scientists have found in “areas of extreme latitude,” where daylight is rare in the winter, there are “higher recorded levels of winter S.A.D.”

Because of this, light therapy is a popular and effective tool in treating mild cases of seasonal depression, as well as increasing exposure to natural light. Most light therapy consists of exposure to a special light box, which have been designed to filter out UV rays.

However, in the winter months, natural sunlight can be hard to come by. Shorter days and cold weather keep people inside and away from the sun.

And today, on the purported most depressing day of the year, Environment Canada has issued several extreme weather warnings all over the country. In the GTA alone, lows of minus 35 degrees are expected throughout Monday and Tuesday.